Powerful presentation tips may offer the answer to transforming tedious business meetings which leave so many professionals uninspired.
A number of readers seemed to empathise with a previous article I wrote, having left comments such as:
‘My previous employer needs to read this’
‘Whew! I thought it was just me!’
‘Many companies could take notes from this article’
That article was called ‘Most meetings don’t work’.
I wrote the original article because some people believe that poorly managed business meetings are a relic of the past.
We still need to stop the madness of many business meetings
Given the critical importance of the issue and its impact on the sanity and morale of so many professionals, I thought we should explore:
– Why the culture of meetings in so many organisations hasn’t changed in decades.
– What else it would take to change the effectiveness of meetings in business today?
Why it hasn’t changed?
I’m not a business psychologist.
I can only offer an explanation from my personal perspective and business experience.
As I mull over the conundrum, I’m reminded of a very old story which I’m sure you will be familiar with as well.
The tale was of a mother who was teaching her daughter the cherished family recipe for cooking a whole baked ham. It was a family recipe that had survived generations. It was important that each time it was passed on, it was followed carefully.
Having prepared the ham with the ‘secret’ ingredients that the mother shared, they arrived at a point that the daughter didn’t quite understand.
She asked her mother why she cut off both ends of the ham. She expressed a concern that she thought that may make it ‘dry out’.
Her mother explained that was the way she had been taught by her mother, She didn’t know why both ends were cut.
They decided to call the grandmother and put the same question to her.
The grandmother explained that she also didn’t know and that was just the way she was taught by her mother.
Fortunately, although very old, frail and living in a home for the elderly, her mother was still alive. They decided to get in touch with their great grandmother to ask her the same question.
The great grandmother knew exactly why she cut off both ends. She explained that it was simply because she didn’t have a pan big enough for the whole ham.
If you aren’t a champion of some of the business meetings you attend and wonder why they are the way they are, perhaps you could have your answer.
Perhaps your manager is simply repeating what they were taught to do by their manager
No one would want their ham to ‘dry out.’
No one consciously wants to run a bad meeting.
What else needs to change?
In addition to implementing the 5 term contract I detailed in the previous article, there is plenty more that you can do.
There is a lot to be learned from high impact presenting and public speaking.
The similarities between good business meetings and presentations are remarkable
– A clear purpose and objective; in other words they exist for a reason.
– The exchange of relevant and valuable information.
– A good conversation. If it’s just one person speaking it’s a lecture, not a conversation.
– An opportunity – to move towards something positive or move away from a pain point.
– Human connection, empathy and compassion
Following these 10 presentation training skill tips that we share in our workshops will add enormous value to your next business meeting.
Once you’ve had everyone agree to the 5 term contract in my previous article, if you are the person who called the meeting, make sure that you are very clear on:
– The reason for the meeting
– How and what you want people to contribute
– How you want them to think
– What you want them to feel
– What you want them to do when the meeting is over
Spend a few moments before you start your agenda getting the people in the room to imagine that the meeting had just finished and that it was a huge success.
Ask everyone why the meeting in their imagination was such a success.
Make sure no one sits in the same seat they sat in last time.
If that’s a challenge for you then record where they sit each time. When you take a comfort break or lunch don’t let them return to the same seat either.
Never open the meeting saying words to the effect of, ‘As usual, today we are going to…’
The moment you suggest you are simply going to do what you always do then you’ve lost them.
Open the meeting in the same way you would a presentation. Make sure you get their attention and they know they are in the right room.
Remember that as everyone is taking their seats you have absolutely no idea what is going through their minds or is happening in their world.
You don’t have time to ask them and so you will never know. Therefore, your priority is to interrupt their thought patterns and to change their emotional state to prepare them for the discussion.
There are countless ways to do that it simply takes a little time, mindfulness and creativity.
– You might find a fun or challenging energiser or ice breaker
– Perhaps just ask them to spend the first two minutes breathing. Breathing in for a count or 5 and then breathing out for a count of 5 doing nothing but focus on their breath.
– You may want to ask people to simply tune in to what they are thinking and feeling at that moment.
Rather than saying it out loud, they could express it in the form of pictures or words on the flip chart.
You don’t even have to discuss it. Simply use it as a means of getting everyone to really pause for a moment and think about where they are.
Ban the use of all mobile phones, laptops and anything else remotely distracting.
Help them to feel good.
Don’t just focus on the negative.
I’m not suggesting for a moment that you ignore everything that’s going wrong. Sometimes, before we look at the challenges and opportunities, its worth reminding people what’s working so well.
Make sure you’re in a room with natural light.
There really is nothing worse than being trapped in a room with colleagues in a meeting that seems to be taking forever, where there is no natural light.
For many businesses the limitations on space make that a huge challenge but accepting that as something you have no control over is not helpful.
Human beings need light.
If the meeting is in anyway important don’t lock them in the basement or shut out the light. Do whatever it takes to let the light in.
If it really isn’t within your gift to give them some light, then at the very least schedule regular breaks and insist they find some for themselves
Stimulate the right brain as well as the left.
The number of meetings I have endured over the years where the environment has only supported ‘left brain’ thinking is astounding.
Nothing good was ever achieved using the left brain exclusively. We need to stimulate the right hemisphere too. That means as well as light we need colour, variety, humour, creativity, props.
Is a little music going too far?
Check in with the other people in the room.
Whatever the meeting is for, it’s like a presentation; it’s not about you, it’s about your audience.
You may have your objective and agenda and once you’ve set that out ask your colleagues what they would like from the meeting too.
Once it’s over ask them if they got it.
If you need help communicating more effectively in business meetings:
– Book yourself onto a powerful public speaking course.
– Invest in some really good one to one public speaking coaching.
– Get yourself some excellent presentation training
Image: Courtesy of flickr.com