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Chapter 14. Switching Hats Becoming a Sh... > Commit to Being a Good Meeting Contr...

Commit to Being a Good Meeting Contributor

Isn't it in your own best interests to have a good meeting: to get what you need from the presentation, to get your input into the discussion, and to get it done efficiently? Here are some guidelines for meeting attendees:

  • Examine your style. Are you a positive contributor or notorious for ripping speakers apart? Would some style adjustments possibly be beneficial?

  • Come prepared to meetings. A major flaw of meeting attendees is that they haven't done their homework.

  • Get there on time, and stay there. A major disrupter of meetings is key people coming and going or frequently having their attention diverted and then asking for an update.

  • Buy into the process. What are the rules, objectives, timetable? If they're poorly defined, get them cleared up. If they are reasonable, commit to doing your part to see these are met. It's in both your interests to get this meeting over with expeditiously.

  • Shut off the cell phone. If waiting for a vital call, step out of the room to take it. Make your contributions additive.

  • Important tip: Shhhhh. Give presenters a chance. Some executives interrupt early and often. Giving speakers just a bit more leeway may return a big dividend. Concentrate on what the speaker is saying. Keep an open mind and avoid drawing hasty conclusions, particularly if the speaker's views are different from yours.

  • Be a responsive listener. Entertainers and public speakers say they perform better for a "good" audience. The worst audience is that which does nothing—no facial expression (unless a blank stare is an expression), no verbal response, no smiles, cheers, not even boos. It is disconcerting to presenters not to know whether they have established satisfactory rapport or even whether the audience is alive. Better to be responsive, with eye contact, a head nod or smile, writing down an important point, even with a puzzled look. And remember, if you don't laugh at the joke, the speaker may assume you didn't understand it and tell it again.

  • Be a team player. Sometimes a nervous presenter needs a little help to get unstuck, especially in the early phases of the presentation. By asking a stumbling colleague a helpful question, you can gently help the presenter relax and come across more naturally and confidently.

  • Request clarification of unclear material. Complex concepts, special terminology and acronyms, references to events and people, and inadequately covered material offer possibilities for misunderstanding. The speaker assumes everyone is following, and often listeners sit quietly even though they are confused. No one wants to be the one to say, "I don't know what you're talking about." When someone does ask the "dumb" question, generally others are grateful, because they don't know either.

  • Think before asking questions or making comments. Keep your input brief and to the point. Frequently audience members make lengthy and circuitous comments before getting to the point, if ever. Or they sidetrack, bog down, or take over the presentation. This may meet their particular needs (or be good for their egos) but probably does little to meet the needs of the rest of the people, who came to hear the presentation. A facilitative listener will choose a good breaking spot rather than interrupt others, make queries or inputs that are relevant to the immediate topic, and speak loudly and clearly so that all, not just the speaker, can hear.

  • Work with the speaker toward mutual understanding. Communication snags are common in presentations. Help the speaker resolve these by suggesting specific examples, paraphrasing statements, stating points in different terms, and offering insights or additional information from a different perspective.

  • Resist side conversations or other distractions. Another severe handicap to a presentation is when six conversations go on simultaneously.



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