An often-recurring question: How do you get more value from meetings? I'm not talking about the weekly sales meeting where a handful of salespeople report their figures and go through the targets ahead. I'm talking about meetings in the form of seminars, conferences and congresses.
One way to increase value and to ensure that attendees take something home is to engage the attendees.
Many have probably heard the quote from Chinese philosopher Confucius: "Tell me and I forget. Show me and I remember. Involve me and I will learn." Now that we know we must involve the audience, the next question is "How?" Most of those who have heard the quote have probably delivered a presentation on a podium, and asked for questions afterward, just to see a roomful of mostly blank faces.
So what can we do about this? One idea is to begin with the beginning. What does the meeting organizer hope to achieve with the (string of) presentation(s)? Is this purpose clearly stated, and are the attendees there for the same purpose? As a speaker, have you tried asking the audience about their expectations before you show the first slide? You can hardly ask several hundred, but if you walk down on the floor, and press a few people for a response this will often break the ice.
This may be risky, since you may have to adjust your presentation to
match other expectations than those you had originally prepared for,
but it would still be better than to just “play your tape” and miss
If you are acceptably synchronised with the expectations another idea is to make a short break about halfway. Summarize how you have been delivering towards the stated expectations. Ask attendees to discuss in twos or threes how they can use the new information when they get back to their workplace. Repeat this exercise at the end of your presentation. Now ask for feedback of how the various groups have found the information useful. Do not look for agreement or consensus throughout. To the contrary—the more different suggestions for follow-up, the better.
I’d like to know if anyone has tried anything like this. Many speaker slots are set to last for 40-45 minutes. If you try the above, you will probably be down to a maximum of 30 minutes speaking. Are you able to reduce your speech by 33 percent? Are you able to stay quiet and listen in case you succeed in getting feedback?
Edgar Valdmanis is the marketing director of the Norwegian Computer Society, and president of Meeting Professionals Norway Chapter.