Are you the planner of the monthly or periodic company or department meeting? Do you often ask “How can I improve my company meetings?” They can be deadly dull if you’re not careful. You know the drill. A bunch of talking heads line up to give people company information. People are interested, but the most effective meetings woo their attention with thought-provoking questions and answers, audio-visuals and participation. These tips bring you success.
An article in the Wall Street Journal, several years ago, stated that managers would save eighty percent of the time they waste in meetings if they did two things correctly. The first was to always have an agenda. The second was start on time and end on time. I’ll add that you need to allot each speaker the amount of time necessary to cover their topic. Hold them to their time limit – nicely.
Diversify your presentation methods.If every speaker talks to the audience, in lecture format, even interested heads soon nod. Ask people to talk in small groups. Use audio-visual materials such as overheads, Power Point presentations and pictures BUT make them relevant, easily absorbed and with FEW words and more images LISTS AND TEXT are boring – keep them to the notes not the presentation. If you’re talking about a new process, show your employees before and after parts. Pass around positive customer surveys and comment cards.
Start your meetings, presentations and training sessions with an ice-breaker or warm-up activity. In a large meeting or a short meeting, the icebreaker can be a single question that gets people thinking and talking with their neighbour. As an example, ask a question that causes people to raise their hands. The length of the ice-breaker depends on the length of your meeting, so plan wisely.
Invite guest speakers for audience participation and excitement. Your customers have lots to say to your workforce about their needs and quality requirements. One client organisation that partners with non-profit, charitable associations features guest speakers from the organisations that receive their donations. Speakers from organisations that your employees support financially are dynamite.
Encourage questions to get a dialogue going. Ask people to write down their questions in advance of the meeting and during the meeting. Allow time for questions directed to each speaker as you go. If you can’t answer the question immediately and correctly, tell the people you’ll get back with them when you have the correct answer. If questions exceed time, schedule a meeting on the topic.
An often-overlooked, but very important, successful meeting tactic is to ask each speaker to repeat out loud every question he or she is asked. The person asking the question then knows the speaker understood the question. Other people attending the meeting can hear and know the question, too, not just surmise the question – perhaps incorrectly – from the speaker’s response.
Set goals for your periodic meeting. You can’t present every aspect of the company’s business during a one hour meeting. So, decide the important, timely issues and spend the meeting time on them. Take into consideration the interests of the majority of the attendees as well. Remember, you have other methods for communicating company information, too. It does not have to take place at the meeting.
Formulate the agenda Identify the needs and interests of the majority of the participants. Start with good news that will make the attendees feel good. Vary the order of the speakers on the agenda each month. You don’t want people bored by sameness. Distribute important items across the agenda so people don’t tune out the end of the meeting, or think the final items are less important.
Organise the physical environment so that people are attentive to the meeting content. No one should sit behind or to the side of your speakers. Make sure there are seats for all attendees, and if taking notes is required, a surface to write on, too. Make sure visuals are visible and that people can hear. You may need to use a microphone. You can pass props or samples around the room for viewing.
Never underestimate the power of food at a meeting. Food relaxes the atmosphere, helps make people feel comfortable, helps people sustain positive energy levels and builds the camaraderie of the team. Ensure you meet the diverse needs of your group with the food you serve. As an example, offer fruit and yoghurt in addition to donuts and offer vegetarian food.
Give them a souvenir. For every meeting, give your attendees something to remember the message. For face-to-face meetings, try a bookmark, picture or marketing leave piece. For online meetings, send them a pertinent link, YouTube video link or related image or .gif. After all, everyone loves presents.
Gamify it. Everyone loves games, so why not include them in your presentations? For big events, rent audience response systems that enable real-time feedback, polling and Q&A. For small meetings, play a few icebreakers and team building games during the meeting.
One of the key things about meetings is to remember that we all have limited attention spans. The meeting must be relevant and have a genuine purpose. Too many meetings don’t allow time to actually do any work, too few meetings mean communication across the organisation and outside of the organisation will suffer and moral will drop.
Fun, Relevant, Timely and Organised.
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