Make your Meeting Worth Having – 5 Tips to Connect with Your Audience

I recently watched a video on a study centered on improving productivity in the workplace. The top cited problems for work interruptions and lack of concentrated efforts toward producing results while at work were, Managers and Meetings. Upon reflecting on what I now call the M&M factor, I realized it is indeed quite accurate. When I think of going to a place to get some serious work done, I unfortunately do not think of the office and I’m not alone. Managers are one thing, and they have a job to do, but the meetings factor really hit home. How many meetings do you attend in a week, a month, or year? Some good, some boring, and some are just simply not needed. How many times have you left the meeting thinking to yourself, “What a waste of time”?

Time and people are the most valuable resources we have, so do everyone a favor and if you’re scheduled to speak or host the next upcoming meeting or conference, prepare to actually connect with your attendees and make it worth doing!

Great meetings come through the connection of the audience with the presenter and connection to the message they are delivering. Communicating with others comes in many different forms and platforms each with unique factors, so to ensure people are clearly getting your message and more importantly are happy to be there listening to you, you need to plan and prepare accordingly.

It is not an easy task at times. People have different personalities, companies have varying communication styles and culture, and your strategy to connect may have to adapt simply based on the size of group you will be speaking to. Let’s take a look at some of the planning factors, so when it’s show time you can be at ease and leave your meeting feeling good that the information you shared was understood, the audience was engaged, and that they were glad they were there to hear it.

Note: This is especially important for Project Managers, as we tend to hold weekly meetings and you do not want your team dreading these each week. You need your team to be looking forward to them, contributing in the discussion, and leaving the sessions feeling better about the project and what’s next.

When is comes to speaking with others, there are a few constants to remember, no matter who or how many people you are speaking to.

Connecting Tip #1: Golden rules to Follow

  • Value your listeners. Remember you can talk to you’re blue in the face, but people know in their gut if you really care about them.
  • It’s important to keep things simple. Use some humor, breed some inspiration, and don’t forget to smile.
  • All good communicators will get to the point before their listeners start asking, “What’s the point?

Now that we reviewed the Golden rules in taking others time to speak to them, let’s look into a few of the different speaking situations we find ourselves in.

Connecting Tip #2: For all meeting types

Before entering any conversation or presentation, always know two things:

  • What do I want them to know?
  • What do I want them to do or walk away with?

This will help keep the focus on the main points, and in keeping the message simple and concise.

Connecting Tip #3: When speaking One-on-One

  • Talk more about the other person then yourself.
  • Seek to understand what they value by being a good listener and asking follow-up questions. Share your values that may be similar to theirs.

Being a good listener is the number one most underrated communication skill. This will build blocks to connecting which is always built on common ground.

Connecting Tip #4: When speaking to a Group

  • Ensure everyone understands you value their time and that you are excited to be there with them, and that they are your highest priority that day.
  • Look for ways to compliment some folks from the group for their ideas and actions and celebrate any success you can together.

The group needs to feel their time is appreciated and that you are there with a true desire to add value to them and to the discussion.

Connecting Tip #5: When speaking to an Audience

The larger the audience, the more energy you will need to bring, so you need to find a way to increase your energy – and I don’t mean another cup of coffee. I have found that by simply knowing I am well prepared and ready to go that the extra energy will be shown through confidence in the material I am presenting. This also allows you to focus and speak with genuine passion on the material, which will be felt by your listeners and help you to connect with them.

  • Express your appreciation for them and the occasion early in your talk.
  • Try to do something special for them and let them know you prepared something just for them.
  • View everyone their as a “10” and expect a great response from them.
  • As you finish be sure to again tell them how much enjoyed being with them.

One final suggestion is to understand that no one truly likes to sit in respectful silence for more then 20 minutes. Most Ted Talks are 15 minutes in length and for good reason. If you are going to be speaking for more then 20 minutes, then try to get them engaged in some way, with short Q&A intervals, or letting them discuss something with their neighbours. And lastly, finish early. Do not go over and steal more of their time. If you have not been finishing on time, then reflect as to why this is happening to you and be sure to adjust your preparation accordingly. Keep in mind that everyone dissolves information slightly different so try to capture it in different forms. Many speakers will tell you that stories tend to best.

  • What we say accounts for 7 percent of what is believed
  • The way we say it accounts for 38 percent
  • What others see accounts for 55 percent

I hope these tips help the next time you are preparing to knock em’ dead! People may not always remember what you said, but they will remember how you made them feel.

Contributing Editor: Greg Ryder (Project Manager, Telecommunications) Toronto, ON