Why was I in this meeting? What was the point of the meeting? All too often we have attended presentations that upon conclusion of the meeting we asked ourselves: Why was I in this meeting? What was the point of the meeting?
It costs money in salaries and time for staff members to attend meetings. Ineffective meetings can waste significant amounts of resources in terms of dollars and time that could be spent on other activities. Project Managers and Business Analysts schedule a lot of meetings as part of their day to day activities. Let’s discuss how to deliver maximum results from each meeting you are hosting.
Caprice White says, “Meeting facilitation is a soft skill that is a vital part of your business analyst toolkit. It is rare to be a business analyst and not facilitate meetings.” Keeping your facilitation skills sharp can move those meetings along when everyone in the room seems to be talking about a different topic.
“Fortunately, we have a little meeting protocol where I work…you can’t schedule a meeting without identifying the objective of the meeting and the desired outcome,” offers Andrea Brockmeier. Identify why you are meeting and what you expect to get out of the meeting in the invitation to be clear with meeting attendees. If your purpose and outcome are not clear, don’t hold the meeting. Your agenda should support the outcome. Consider stating agenda items as questions to answer as a way of reinforcing the meeting outcome.
Bob Prentiss offers the advice, “With the right preparation, you can confidently walk into any room – including the board room – and knock it out of the park. Know your audience needs and tell a good story.” Even with a clear meeting purpose and outcome, a meeting can be unproductive without understanding your attendee's needs. Understand WIIIFM: What Is In It For Me? Every attendee will be asking that question at some point in the meeting. Tell the story to get WIIFM across. Data is good, but we remember stories long after the meeting. Data supports the story you are telling.
There are four phases to creating a great meeting and presentation, one that will both inform and create engaging conversation.
The planning phase can be a quick review of the presentation structure (if recurring content) or a more detailed in which you are thinking about key aspects of the meeting. The first key decision point is outlining the purpose of the meeting. The next is to outline the outcomes of the meeting you want to achieve. Outlining the outcomes sets expectations on the desired outcome of the meeting.
Invite roles or resources that are critical to ensuring a good outcome for your meeting. Stakeholder analysis or a RACI can be used to determine meeting invites. If the meeting outcome is a decision, make sure that attendee can make that decision. If an attendee can’t help you achieve the meeting outcome or make a decision, you might want to consider excluding them from the meeting. Understanding your audience is important to making a good presentation. Equally important is understanding why someone declines the meeting invitation. If you can’t hold the meeting without them, ask for a delegate that can make decisions in their place or contribute to the conversation.
If participants are attending the meeting remotely, it’s a good idea to make sure the teleconferencing equipment, phone and desktop sharing application are accessible and available to the attendees. Include the logistic information on how to connect to the meeting remotely in the meeting invite and all meeting communications.
Don’t skip over the agenda. Roger Schwarz from Harvard Business Review talks about the importance of the meeting agenda, “We’ve all been in meetings where participants are unprepared, people veer off-track, and the topics discussed are a waste of the team’s time. These problems — and others like it — stem from poor agenda design.” Get a clear agenda for your meetings and list agenda items as questions that need answers not just bullet points. The agenda should fully support the meeting purpose and outcome.
Be clear on your expectations for attendees. If reading is required or materials are needed, state those expectations in the invite. A day before the meeting, send out the reminder about pre-work.
Now the meeting time has arrived, you need to make sure the room or virtual conference is set up. Setup isn’t always possible in some cases when conference rooms are booked back to back without any time available for testing out the equipment or systems. Set up 10 minutes before the meeting starts.
As the presenter or facilitator, it can be nearly impossible to present and take notes at the same time. Consider an audio recording of the meeting if the audio microphones in the room are of high enough quality to capture all the questions. Another alternative is to appoint a person as a note taker for the meeting to capture all the major decisions points, questions, and parking lot items.
Focus on the agenda. If topics come up in conversation that is off topic to the meeting purpose and outcome, put them off to the side or in the “parking lot.” Publish and follow up on “parking lot” items after the meeting is completed.
Wrap Up Phase
This phase occurs near the conclusion of the meeting. Review all decisions and action items. Ownership of action items ensures owners will address action items after the meeting. Set dates for when the attendees could expect a response on the action item.
Send out the meeting notes, a copy of the presentation, parking lot items and action items. Immediately sharing these items after the meeting keeps them fresh in meeting attendee’s minds. Share the meeting recording if the meeting was recorded. You can share the content from the meeting via a file share repository such as SharePoint, Google Drive or other services. It is also important to extend the delivery recipients to include those who could not attend.
Presentations are a great way to engage your project team and stakeholders to show value within your project activity. Carefully and thoughtfully plan your presentation and meeting. An organized presentation and agenda leave attendees with a positive impression of your communication abilities and organizational skills.
What other tips would you recommend?