By Dale S. Laszig
Castles Technology Co. Ltd.
Can you remember the last time you felt excited about going to a meeting? Perhaps it was an invitation with a paper umbrella announcing a company bash or the unveiling of a new product line. Meetings can be meaningful and productive, but they too often miss the intended mark.
A meeting, like any theatrical production, has three essential ingredients: timing, action and plot. If any of these are lacking, the reviews will not be kind.
Here are the most common complaints among critics:
We've all suffered through lengthy performances where speakers promised to be brief. We've seen the devastating consequences of "meeting creep" brought about by presenters exceeding their time limits, causing other speakers to be bumped and meeting agendas scrapped.
Most of us would rather leave early than take long breaks. High-level overviews are preferable to complicated trainings that go into too much detail. Hand-outs with links and recommended reading extend a meeting's useful life, perpetuate its objectives, and enable us to continue our research and follow-up at our own pace - long after the event has ended.
In the absence of a face to face meeting, webinars provide an effective medium for interactive discussions because they support graphic presentations and allow for multiple presenters.
Video conferencing, which works best when used in small groups, can sometimes pose problems. The casual spontaneity of webcams is viewed by some multinational companies as too informal and unprofessional.
Video conference technologies can be useful in building rapport within cross-functional teams, but they could prove counterproductive when used to communicate with overseas clients. In the latter case, visual distractions could undermine a meeting's agenda and priorities.
Maintaining a meeting's focus takes advance planning and gets easier with practice. Effective managers circulate an agenda before the meeting begins. Once the meeting is in session, they check in with attendees to make sure that everyone is in sync, and they stay on course by relegating less pertinent questions to separate, offline discussions.
A good meeting resembles a three-act play, with each act contributing equally to the structure and integrity of the event. Here are some ways to make each act a bravura performance:
Review the agenda. Make clear, inclusive opening statements that advance meeting objectives and make all participants feel directly involved in the event. Share the rules of engagement. The meeting chair should advise whether it's preferable to ask questions during the formal presentation or wait for a designated question-and-answer period.
Also, state the value proposition. What is the ROI for attendees, and how will the information or action plan shared in this meeting directly benefit them?
Finally, it's no accident that carefully planned meetings tend to be more memorable than hastily arranged assemblies. But even spontaneous gatherings can be productive and successful if a bit of theatricality is applied.
Devising a theme for the meeting will add a sense of fun and adventure to the intended call to action. Good timing, combined with audience engagement and a strong story line, will set the stage for a command performance.
Dale S. Laszig is Vice President of Sales in the United States for Castles Technology Co. Ltd., a manufacturer and global provider of smart card, contactless and POS solutions. She can be reached at 973-930-0331 or email@example.com.
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