Regarding meetings and presentations, being better, arriving more prepared, becoming more efficient, and leading more effectively are all admirable goals. They are not always the most straightforward goals to achieve but there are some tips, tricks, routines, and behaviors we can implement to help us reach these goals.
We have all spent countless minutes and even hours sitting through meetings wondering why we are doing some seemingly random exercises or contemplating why things are moving so dreadfully slow. It is, therefore, far easier to know what we need to avoid as a presenter rather than what we must do.
Luckily, we have compiled a series of tips to improve all types of meetings, from brainstorming sessions, workshops, and presentations, to remote training sessions.
A mantra many workers now live by is ‘No agenda, no attenda. While putting together an agenda you will quickly realize if a meeting is necessary, how in-depth it needs to be, who needs to be involved, and often, what topics you need to cover. Including your agenda in a calendar invite won’t just help you prepare sufficiently, but will help give a sense of context to attendees.
The less explaining you need to do at the very beginning of the meeting, the more time and effort you save and the faster and more efficient you can be. It’s that simple.
Waiting five minutes for everyone to arrive means you are stealing five minutes from your discussion - actually, they are stealing those five minutes. If you’re meeting is supposed to start at 8 a.m. then be ready to kick things off at 8 a.m. Make it clear that you plan to start on time and those that are late will need to catch up.
Admittedly, this may seem harsh yet setting this precedent that your meetings start on time will benefit you going forward. Likewise, you are less likely to run over by starting on time. Remember that some will be running to some other appointment or meeting and the last thing you need is for two or three people to be eyeing the door while you are making a point. The ultimate goal here is to limit disruptions and to get into your rhythm as soon as possible.
Is a full hour more than enough? Do you plan to speak for all those 90-minutes in that brainstorming session? Your agenda should help to create a timeline for the meeting but it is best to be critical. Be critical when planning out what you want to cover or while you are creating your slide deck; ask yourself if that slide is necessary, whether you can be more concise, and if it’s possible to trim some extra fat here and there.
No matter how hard we try, our concentration levels will dip at a certain period. It is nearly impossible to remain focused and present for one hour, no matter how fascinating we find the subject matter. Use that to your advantage. Either break up the meeting by including short pauses or plan a quick hitter meeting where you hit all the main points and keep everyone focused. Think about being as effective as possible.
Many of you may have read icebreaker and had flashbacks to some embarrassing activities and exercises you were forced to participate in. But have no fear because other icebreakers are far less awkward and far more informative. We have a series of unique and interactive icebreakers you can browse through.
Adapt your icebreaker to the type of meeting you are running. If it is with teammates then why not try a check-in? If it is with students consider asking them about their summer plans or how they are finding this semester. There are plenty of options, so just think about your audience and find something relevant to them.
We’ve skated around this idea in some of our previous points but let’s look at it more in-depth here. If you have a set time for the meeting and have planned out exactly what you’re going to cover as well as some additional time for audience questions, do your best to stick to that time limit. People have prepared to be here for a certain length of time and probably have other places to be.
Setting an end time is a great way to keep things concise (especially if you tend to ramble or over-explain) for you and your audience. Remember that you can always say ‘Let’s follow up after this meeting’ or ‘We don’t have time for this now, but I can send an update later. You don’t have to cover absolutely everything and can always follow up with individuals later on and provide some more context or a more complete response.
This is not just for the benefit of your audience but also for you. Perhaps some people were late, maybe some couldn’t attend the entire meeting, or perhaps struggle to recall every detail you covered and need a recording for reference. You want everyone to leave feeling informed and engaged. Remember that will not always be the case. So provide them with a recording so they can go back and jog their memories.
Recording your meeting or your presentation is a useful way for you to critique your performance. Try to find places you could be more concise, see if your icebreaker landed, and examine if you are engaging enough with the audience and how they are responding. Doing this will help you become a better and more confident presenter.
Questions are always beneficial as they can help you provide some additional context or clarity and clear up any confusion or misunderstandings. Likewise, your audience will feel more engaged as you create a more transparent and open environment. The traditional method of hand-raising is ideal for school but can be awkward in a hybrid meeting so using some dedicated Q&A tool can make this a smoother experience.
Top tip: If you want to run a Q&A be sure to do so before the conclusion of your presentation or meeting. You want to have the last word so be sure to save the last five minutes for your conclusion.
Including everyone can be tricky as we often struggle to make those joining online feel on par with those who are physically in the room despite our more than a two-year crash course in remote and hybrid work. We can try to ensure we aren’t accidentally favoring physical attendees over virtual ones with a few tricks.
Make sure you have a speaker or microphone that will pick up everyone’s voice. Ask everyone in the room when they are speaking to do so loudly and clearly. Doing both will mean everyone online will hear clearly and won’t have to try to grab your attention to ask if someone can repeat their question. Another piece of advice would be to
We have all seen a presenter attempt to wrap things up by promising to send on a document, give a more detailed explanation to a question, or link to some additional resources, only for nothing to happen in the hours and days following the meeting.
So why not plan to send on material immediately following your presentation, or even better, why not send a feedback form or survey? Consider sending a survey if you want some honest opinions on how things went as it can be the ultimate way you can improve as a presenter by understanding your attendees' point of view.
But what about remote and hybrid meetings? Do we have any specific tips for those? Well of course we do! Now obviously, much of what we have already talked about applies to online and hybrid meetings but we do have some other nuggets of advice for those scenarios.
Many calendar apps will let you add in a Zoom or Google Meet link there and then. Do it! Don’t wait ‘till a later period as you run the risk of forgetting. The last thing you want is to remember you forgot the Zoom link with five or so minutes to go, then panic-strickenly create a new Zoom link, and hope everyone checks their email update in time.
We mentioned this earlier and suggested that recording the meeting could be beneficial. Now we are ordering you to do so - well ok, we aren’t ordering you to do anything, but we strongly recommend it. You will want to get everyone’s permission before you go and hit the record button, but doing so will help you critique your presentation performance and it will be another resource your audience can go back and rewatch.
Ok, obviously you will probably want to share your screen but what we mean is make sure that you can share your screen. Browser updates and security preferences can sometimes prevent us from sharing your screen successfully. Keep your browser updated so you can share your screen (run a test before the meeting if you are unsure). Also, if anyone else needs to during the meeting adjust the settings beforehand.
For an even more user-friendly experience why not send the slides to everyone before the meeting? Doing this will let everyone follow along on their own computer, and let them go back to previous slides if they misread something or if you moved on too quickly.
Engaging and connecting with a completely remote group is a trickier prospect than with one sitting in front of you. Hence, you need to find some inventive ways to break down this virtual barrier.
Utilizing some online tools that can help you make your presentation more interactive can aid you in connecting with your audience no matter where are logging in from!
So to end this blog post we thought that we would look at two of the most important stages of any meeting; the start and the end. To start a meeting we have already suggested some form of an icebreaker. This means you can engage your audience from the very get-go and make them feel part of the conversation.
For ending a meeting we have a series of tips and tricks specifically for this. If you want to read the full list then simply click here.