You schedule a business meeting to discuss something with a broader team, wanting to achieve consensus. You show up as expected, albeit with no time to spare, and the meeting doesn’t go as you had hoped. You leave with no idea of next steps, along with the feeling that the attendees weren’t all that engaged.
What could you have possibly done to make it better?
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1. Define your agenda. Make sure your meeting request has a clear agenda and goal, and that it is set for the appropriate length of time. Without a concrete idea of what the meeting is supposed to accomplish, you (and your team members) will likely walk away wondering what the point of even having it was.
2. Invite the key stakeholders. Try to speak to one of them ahead of time to have an “ally” or as a go-to person to help kick start the conversation.
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3. Get in the zone! Too often we jump from meeting to meeting without mentally preparing ourselves for each one. To me, getting in the “zone,” or prepping, is critical, whether you are the organizer of the meeting or an invitee. Take 10 minutes beforehand to gather your thoughts and ideas and you will come across as a rock star.
4. Identify your role. Think about what part you will have in the meeting: Are you the leader who is trying to push something forward? Or are you a facilitator trying to get various groups on the same page as part of a cross functional team? This will help you when it comes time to get your point across and compose your agenda.
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5. Get people engaged. Does everyone in the meeting know each other? If not, have them introduce themselves. This will warm up the room and help more people feel compelled to speak up. During the meeting, solicit opinions, ask questions, call on attendees by name. Do it in a non-threatening way, and because people never want to look like they weren’t paying attention, everyone will start to become more interactive, lest you call on them and catch them unaware.
6. Know what motivates the people in the room. By understanding what drives the attendees, you can address their concerns while moving ahead with your agenda. Very often you can surmise what will be important to them by thinking about what department they work in, and where they are in the organizational hierarchy. The fastest way to start losing people’s interest is to get too down in the proverbial weeds or to go off on a tangent.
So, get organized, get In the zone and get people engaged. Not only will you “own” the meeting, you will be perceived as having the ability ability to get things done.
Alicia Brown is the Director of Communications at Sparta Systems, Inc., a leading enterprise quality management software company. She has been helping companies market their products and improve their brand recognition for nearly 20 years. She holds a B.S. from New York University and an MBA from Carnegie Mellon University. She resides in central New Jersey with her husband and three young children.