Three Ways to Score Meeting Room Wins

startup meeting public domainA friend of mine once worked at a large chemical company and one day everyone in his department was called together for a meeting. A team was arriving soon from their Japan branch and everyone was going to work together for a few months.

The point of the meeting was to teach the American workers how to better communicate with their Japanese counterparts. Americans tend to quickly make their major points and then spend some time explaining how they got to those conclusions. The Japanese, by contrast, will take a significant amount of time laying the groundwork for their conclusions before they sum things up.

To the Japanese, the American way seems abrupt, perhaps even rude. To the Americans, the Japanese way seems to waste time.

The training session made everyone a little more aware of how they presented and participated in meetings and that kind of increased awareness would be good for all of us. The first step is to understand the purpose of any meeting where you are the planner or a significant participant. I’ll look at three distinctly different scenarios here.

The presentation

This is the easiest and perhaps most “traditional” meeting. You or a group is tasked with sharing your knowledge, ideas or plans with others. Generally, you’re supposed to feed information for others to consume. You might have a marketing plan you want to outline so others can see what tasks will be assigned to them. In tech settings, someone may have solved a problem and the solution needs to be understood by others.

We have all been in enough of these meetings to recognize them and each of us also could probably remember some presentations that were terrible, while others have been engaging. Try to emulate the good presenters.

The brainstorm

With such a high value placed on ideas today, brainstorming sessions are the lifeblood of many businesses. Set the “presentation” approach to the side and think “conversation” here. Have you ever watched “Celebrity Apprentice”? When the losing team is sitting in the boardroom with Donald Trump, there are always several who complain that the team leader wouldn’t listen to their ideas.

The same thing happens outside of reality television. Problems arise if you come with a pre-conceived idea and force it on your group. They may acquiesce, especially if you’re the boss, but there’s a good chance you will quash ideas from others. Even if you think you have a great idea, enter these kinds of sessions with the mindset that there may be an idea out there from someone else that will change your thinking.

See these kinds of sessions as “productive conversations” where everyone feels comfortable in participating.

The persuader

Without a doubt there are times when as a business owner you need to persuade people to your position. When very talented and experienced people do this, those who have been persuaded end up believing it was their idea in the first place. However, this is rare.

You need good people skills to handle these kinds of meetings. They require a deft balance between delivering your message (presentation) and making others in the meeting feel that you have heard and understood their concerns (conversation), if there are any.

Consider these three “meta” meeting categories and how they should be allowed to shape your approach to meeting organization and participation. The conference room table is often the “playing field” where business is conducted. Don’t go out onto the playing field without having first formulated a solid game plan.

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