In a classically funny John Cleese video entitled Meetings, Bloody Meetings, Cleese's wife says to him, "Why can't you do your work while you're at work?" He replies, "There isn't time. I have to go to meetings."
A sentiment we can all likely identify with.
Yet meetings are a fact of business life. Thinking about them as presentations rather than as simply a group of people who get together to talk, may give us some insights about how to make meetings more effective.
:: Do your research and audience analysis before any meeting. What topic is being discussed? What outcomes are expected from the meeting? In presentation parlance, what is the objective of the meeting? If you are leading the meeting, what key messages do you want people to walk away with? Is there material you should review in advance so you can make relevant comments and ask necessary questions?
What are the audience dynamics? Who needs more time or pre-meeting information to be able to make a decision? Who needs to be managed so she doesn't do all the talking? Who needs to be drawn out more?
:: Use time wisely. If it's your meeting, don't try to cover too many topics or too much information. Be sensitive to what can reasonably be accomplished in the allotted time and what the attendees can absorb. If it seems productive to allow more robust discussion on a particular topic, don't then try to rush through the remaining agenda. Re-schedule for another time.
:: Give the meeting leader and the rest of the attendees the respect of your attention. Don't check your iPhone, text, email or plan the weekend's activities on your computer.
:: When you speak, aim to engage the other attendees. Do this through well-thought-out comments; stories and examples that don't ramble and have a relevant connection to the discussion; and metaphors that help others visualize your point more clearly.
:: Use slides sparingly if at all. Don't let slides substitute for dialogue. If you do use them, take the screen to white or black when the slide has served its purpose and you want to encourage discussion.
flickr/Amanda Schutz C.C. 2.0