So there I was, on one of those conference calls with way too many people and all of a sudden it started to happen. The moderator would ask a question of someone who was on the call and that person would say “Huh? I’m sorry, but could you repeat the question?” This happened over and over again with different people. I just sat there and thought to myself – “Man, is nobody paying attention to this call?” Although it sounds simple, it turns out that staying in the moment is getting more and more difficult to do…
What’s really going on here? It’s always been difficult to get people to remember & retain what has gone on it a meeting; however, now we seem to be having problems with people not being able to keep up with the flow of a meeting. According to author Cherie Kerr we may have the wrong focus. Outside of those folks who are deliberately doing other work during a meeting (BlackBerry anyone?), the people who are actually trying to participate often make the mistake of focusing on the goals of the meeting instead of what is being said right now.
The real goal of a meeting is achieve some sort of result. This can be an agreement, determine a next step, or reach a decision. That’s the end point. How you get there is the responsibility of the person who is running the meeting. If that’s you , then what you want to have happen is for everyone in the meeting to build on what has already been said instead of coming up with completely new directions for the meeting to head off in. Note that we’re not talking about Brainstorming sessions here, but rather normal business meetings.
By building on top of what has already been said, there will be a clear path from where you started to where the goal of the meeting is. Each discussion in the meeting will have a clear start, middle, and end as you lead into the next conversation. It will also quickly become clear if you’ve gone off the path and you’ll be able to bring the meeting back in line. Your participants will be more engaged because they’ll have a better understanding of where the meeting has been and where it is going.
This suggestion is not new. In fact the folks who do improv comedy do this all the time. Their skits flow from one character’s actions to another’s quickly. Hey, if it works for a 30 minute TV show, then surely it will work for your next business meeting!
Are you ready to keep your next meeting in line? Do you think that an incremental approach to conversations is the way to go or do you like a more open and free ranging approach? What works best in your life – leave a comment and let me know.