Time Well Spent

By Lain Ehmann

The worst part about organizing meetings is that most people consider time spent in them to be wasted – the time could have been better spent doing something else. So why not do audience members and yourself a favor and take things up a notch for your next meeting? Here are some ideas.

  • Ask for a hand. The experts at Speaking-Tips.com recommend asking questions that require a physical response from the audience, such as a show of hands. Start with simple questions – Who’s from out of state? – and move to more complex, thought-provoking ones.
  • Break things up. Instead of holding marathon sessions schedule 20- or 30-minute mini-sessions followed by Q&A or discussion periods. This allows participants to focus for brief periods of time and lets them know they’ll reach the light at the end of the tunnel without sitting through another hour-long PowerPoint presentation. After the break points, play music and ask audience members to switch seats, introduce themselves to someone or to hand a business card to the person behind them – anything to get them out of their rut.
  • Don’t provide complete notes. Instead of giving participants a blow-by-blow handout, list only the main points with room for them to take notes. Many people feel more engaged when they’re writing things down and will pay closer attention.
  • Mix things up. If your meetings typically involve a dais, podium and overhead projector, try something different. Meet the audience on their level, step out from behind the podium and use a flip chart or whiteboard instead. Even these small changes can make a big difference when it comes to showing people that it’s not the same old, same old.
  • Ask audience members for input. Involving audience members can be difficult when you are working with large groups. One solution is to hand out index cards at the beginning of the session and ask people to write down questions for the speaker. Then use those questions to prompt discussion.
  • Use humor. Who doesn’t enjoy a good laugh? Appropriate cartoons, funny stories and humor at your own expense are all great stress relievers and terrific ways to put audience members in a good mood. Check out Dan Seidman’s sales horror stories at www.salesautopsy.com, the cartoon of the day at www.sellingpower.com and old “Dilbert” comic strips at www.dilbert.com.
  • Skip the lecture and move right to Q&A. “If you have a speaker who’s daring enough to give it a try, turn the lecture into one big Q&A,” suggests Sue Pellitier of MeetingsNet. Pelletier tells about one speaker who told attendees the topic, asked them to suggest problems and then took his cues from their suggestions.