As the leader and organizer of a meeting, it’s your responsibility to make sure the meeting runs smoothly. As you may expect, running high-quality and efficient meetings has many professional advantages, including the following:
People will be willing to attend your meetings. Helps you build your professional brand as a leader. Assist you in reaching your meeting and business objectives.
The concept of “controlling the room” during a meeting is conceptually similar to what professional speakers and comedians do when trying to keep the audience engaged and focused on their presentation or comedic routine. From a meeting perspective, think of the time that you had been a participant. In some of these meetings you were fully engaged and on the edge of your seat soaking in what others were saying and trying to participate at every possible moment. Think of other meetings you attended where five minutes in you were already looking at the clock, answering emails on your smartphone and/or pretending to take notes when you are actually writing out the next day’s to-do list. What was the difference between these two types of meetings? In short, the answer was the leader’s ability to engage those sitting in the room.
To properly engage meeting participants, you have to control the room, which requires the following:
To the extent possible, only invite people who either want to be there or have a vested interest in the meeting’s outcome. This one is much easier said than done. That said, at the minimum, try not to invite people who have no interest in your topic, they can suck the energy out of the room simply with their nonchalant body language. Have a crisp and well-defined agenda and stick to it in regard to both time and topic. Watch the room and see who is engaged and who is fading. As you see them fade, ask them a direct question to wake them up or slightly shift the discussion (within agenda topic of course) to their area of concern. Use your body language in two ways, first, to give the appearance of confidence and leadership, second, to control the body language of others. Body language in itself is a big topic on its own. The takeaway here is to learn more about body language if you are unfamiliar with the topic, it’s fascinating and, if used correctly, can be of great professional value. Start your meeting on time. If a key player is missing and needed for the first agenda item, reorder the agenda on the fly. This technique both illustrates to the participants that it is in their best interest to not be late as well as gives you the full allotted time to complete your agenda. If someone is speaking on-and-on to the point that others in the room are looking irritated and bored, politely interrupt, thank them for the great information, offer to continue the discussion with him/her “offline” after the meeting and move to the next speaker or topic. If done correctly, you will not offend the person speaking and you will gain the gratitude of everyone else sitting around the table. f needed, use the times listed on the agenda as the reason for the interruption. Don’t be boring and/or uninterested in your own topic. As the meeting leader, your mood, body language and energy level transfers to other attendees. The more animated and excited you are on the topic the greater potential that your audience will be also. As a reverse example of this phenomenon, when someone in a room clears their throat or yawns, other people do it too. This is called transference.
In closing, these seven techniques are not an exclusive list. My suggestion to you, moving forward, is as a meeting participant, watch other leaders run their meeting. This will allow you to continually expand your leadership knowledge by observing the good and bad techniques used by others.
The primary advice and takeaways from today’s column is to know that:
Running high-quality and efficient meetings has many professional advantages. “Controlling the room” during a meeting is conceptually similar to what professional speakers and comedians do when trying to keep the audience engaged and focused. Watch other leaders run their meeting. This will allow you to continually expand your leadership knowledge.
Until next time, work hard, work smart, manage well and continue to build your professional brand.
Eric P. Bloom is the president and founder of Manager Mechanics LLC, a management training company specializing in Information Technology (IT) leadership and is the governing organization of the ITMLP© and ITMLE© certifications. He is also a keynote speaker, nationally syndicated columnist, and author of the books “The CIO’s Guide to Staff Needs, Growth, and Productivity”, “Your IT Career: Get Noticed, Get Promoted, and Build Your Professional Brand”, and “52 Great Management Tips”. Contact him at eric@ManagerMechanics.com, follow him on Twitter at @EricPBloom, or visit www.ManagerMechanics.com.