There are the meetings that drone on and on, the meetings where everyone is fiddling with their smartphones, and the meeting that someone hijacks and leaves you wondering why you’re even there. According to a survey of professionals by Salary.com, meetings ranked as the No. 1 productivity killer. (Dealing with office politics was No. 2.) But there are strategies for running an effective meeting. Here are seven tips to make them more productive.
1. Make your objective clear. A meeting must have a specific and defined purpose. Before you send the calendar invite, ask: what do I want to accomplish. Are you alerting people to a change in management, or a shift in strategy? Are you looking to arrive at a decision on a particular matter? Standing meetings with a vague purpose such as “status updates” are rarely a good use of time.
2. Consider who is invited. When you’re calling a meeting think about who really needs to be there. If you’re announcing a change, invite the people who are affected by the announcement. If you’re meeting to solve a problem, invite the people who will be good sources of information for a solution.
3. Stick to the schedule. Create an agenda that lays out everything you plan to cover, along with a timeline allotting a certain number of minutes to each topic. Once you’re in the meeting, put the agenda on a screen or whiteboard to keep everyone focused.
4. Talk your fair share. Nothing derails a meeting faster than one person commandeering the meeting. If you notice someone monopolizing the conversation, call the person out. Say, “We appreciate your contributions, but let’s hear what others have to say before making a decision.”
5. Start on time, end on time. If you have responsibility for running regular meetings and you’ve gained a reputation for starting and ending on time, you’ll be amazed at how many of your colleagues will make every effort to attend your meetings.
6. Ban technology. The reality is that if people are allowed to bring cell phones or iPads into the room, it’s a distraction. Chances are they won’t focus on the meeting, or contribute to it. Instead, they’re surfing the web or checking emails. Make it a no-tech meeting.
7. Follow up. It’s common for people to walk away from the same meeting with different interpretations of what went on. To reduce the risk, follow up with an email highlighting what was accomplished to all who attended within 24 hours.
Just the thought of public speaking—routinely described as one of the greatest (and most common) fears—can make your palms sweat and create anxiety. But there are a number of strategies to tackle anxiety and deliver a memorable speech. First and foremost is to prepare, prepare, and prepare some more. Create the framework for your speech. Write down the topic, general purpose, specific purpose, central idea and main points. Then go over your notes and practice. Here are a few top tips from Marjorie North, a consultant for political candidates, physicians and lawyers, who runs a private practice specializing in public speaking and executive communication skills.
Know your audience. Before crafting the message, consider who the message is intended for. Learn as much about your listeners as you can. This will help you determine your choice of words, level of information, organization pattern and motivational statement. Make sure to grab the audience’s attention in the first 30 seconds.
Use humor, tell stories and use effective language. Inject a funny anecdote in your presentation, and you’ll immediately capture your audience’s attention. People appreciate the personal touch. A story can provide that.
Watch for feedback and adapt to it. Keep the focus on the audience. Gauge their reactions, adjust your message and stay flexible. Delivering a canned speech will guarantee that you lose the attention of—or even confuse—your listeners.
Let your personality shine through. Be yourself, not a talking head. You’ll establish better credibility if your personality shines through, and your audience will trust what you have to say if you see you’re being authentic.
Finally, remember that practice doesn’t make perfect. No one expects perfection. However, putting in the requisite time to prepare will help you deliver a better speech. You may never shake the nerves entirely, but you can learn to minimize them.
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