Meetings come in all shapes and sizes. There are board meetings, stakeholder meetings, staff meetings, sales meetings — the list is endless. But no matter the purpose, every meeting has one thing in common: how clients, customers and stakeholders perceive you can directly determine the outcome.
Months of hard work and tireless effort could all go to waste if you aren’t able to pitch an audience your company’s latest idea, project or venture. Here are five ways to run a successful business meeting and ensure you always leave a positive impression.
1. Measure the mood. If you want your meeting attendees to leave impressed, make sure you exceed their expectations. One way of going above and beyond — without anyone even realizing it — is to take a mental note of the mood of each person as they arrive and sit down. Use a basic scale of 1–10; the lower the number, the more unhappy or irritated the person appears. Then use that information to tailor your actions throughout the meeting. If someone was caught in traffic on the way over or appears to be agitated, give them some space or treat them with extra compassion. Know your audience. When you go out of your way to lighten the mood and make everyone feel comfortable, attendees begin to relax and focus on the topic at hand.
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2. Remove distractions. Try to limit or remove those items that can cause distraction. Whenever possible, ask your attendees to silence their cell phones, put them aside, or step outside to take a call. An agenda can also be a distraction. Why? It’s easy for someone to review the agenda and skip ahead in their mind. When a person anticipates a topic of discussion, he may be more focused on his response or input than what you have to say. If it’s important to deliver specific details or facts and figures to those who attend your meeting, hand out a report or packet when you get to that topic.
3. Build rapport. The first few minutes of a meeting usually involve some level of chitchat. As people arrive and sit down, it’s typical to talk about the weather, traffic or current events. If most of the people in the room know each other, personal questions about family, vacation and hobbies are also common. Small talk helps build camaraderie, however, not everyone enjoys idle chit-chat. If everyone agrees to start on a positive note, go around the room and ask if anyone has some good news to share or something they want to celebrate. Limit the social time and then focus on the business at hand. The last thing you want to do is waste everyone's time.
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4. Open with a question. The type of question will depend on the reason for your meeting. For a sales meeting or a product pitch, ask your customers about the pain points or challenges they experience. For a stakeholder meeting, ask what threats or challenges they’re most concerned about as they look at the next quarter. The question will help you hone in on what matters most to the group. Once everyone’s concerns and personal motivations are addressed, you’ll be able to focus on running an efficient and productive meeting.
5. Show them why they should care. Passion is contagious. Entrepreneurs usually become excited by new ideas, projects and goals. If you tell someone your plans and they don’t seem as enthusiastic as you are, don’t become frustrated because they don’t “get it.” It’s unfair to expect those who attend a meeting about your company’s next big project to be as excited as you. Instead, demonstrate why the idea is important, relevant and profitable. The most successful meetings focus on the big picture and do much more than relay facts and figures. Tell the story of your concept. How did you get the idea? Was there a particular catalyst? The more personal the story, the better.