Are you fed up with networking meetings? It’s probably because many networkers still haven’t learned how to communicate who they are, what they do,and who they serve.
Not another boring panel!! If that thought goes through your mind at every meeting or conference it's time to get radical. As the moderator or meeting planner, you can dust off the cobwebs of complacency and create extreme meetings that will have everybody talking.
You're at a meeting. It could be a company status meeting, a networking event, or a formal presentation. The person takes the floor and suddenly your eyes glaze over. You start to yawn and fidget in your seat. A team member lets out an exasperated sigh. Two people are making eye contact as if to say, "Get a load of this". You wonder "What the heck is this person talking about?" Will they ever get to the point? That's what happens when a speaker is unclear. The presentation loses impact and the message, if it's heard at all, is quickly lost. What remains is a negative perception. It's not the message-it's the way you communicate the message that determines whether it's heard and accepted.
To communicate with clarity, here are four tips that you can apply to any situation.
Know your outcome. While this sounds obvious, it's not. I coach many leaders and business professionals and they're not always clear about their expectations..And that's why the message is unfocused. To gain crystal clear focus, start with your outcome. At the end of the presentation, what do you expect? Agreement? A sale, a next appointment?
State your purpose. Your purpose is not always the same as your outcome. For example, your outcome may be to close a sale in one meeting. But you wouldn't want to say, "Today, my purpose is to sell you my product." A purpose statement is a sentence that clarifies what you'll be doing in the meeting. "My purpose is to demonstrate the importance of cyber security and give you some tips on how to safe guard your data" Don't assume the listeners know the purpose of the meeting.
Present a visual agenda. People need a roadmap and the agenda will keep you on track. When you start to go off on a tangent, look down at the agenda and come back to the topic. Be sure to assign a time for each agenda item. Timing each item will help you monitor yourself.
Cite an example, not a story. Storytelling is powerful, but if you tend to be verbose, use short examples instead. When making a point, follow it with "for example," or "to illustrate...". Giving examples will connect the points for the listeners. Use the PEP formula. Make a point, give an example, underscore the point.
If you tend to be long winded, use these 4 steps in your next presentation and you'll speak with clarity.
With 11 million meetings daily (3 billion yearly), it's not surprising that people feel they attend too many meetings. And most of them are unproductive. That equates to 31 hours of lost productivity per month or four days. The starting point for improving meeting effectiveness begins with the facilitator.
Here are 10 facilitation tips to make you a better facilitator:
Clear Purpose. Facilitation begins before the meeting. Determine the reason for the meeting. Is it to solve a problem, develop innovative ideas, select a theme for an event? Begin with the end in mind. Without a clear purpose, your meeting will go nowhere.
Start on Time. Don't wait for latecomers. You'll set a negative precedent and you'll end late. To get people be on time, try starting the meeting at an odd time like 8:57 a.m. People will notice the odd time and know you mean business.
Encourage Creative Thinking. The facilitator needs to create a safe space to share ideas. Don't evaluate or reject contributions. Allow for off-the-wall thinking without judgment. The best solutions are not always the tried and true.
Clarify, Paraphrase and Probe. These powerful listening skills are essential tools for any facilitator. Clarify by saying, "Tell me more." "Can you be specific?" We may think we're talking about the same thing when we say the word, CAR. But you're seeing a Volvo and someone else is seeing a Bentley. Paraphrase before responding. This is a listening check as well as an acknowledgement that the person was heard. Finally, probing is a skill that allows the facilitator to dig deeper and get to the underlying issue.
Summarize Main Points. Too many meetings and presentations end without a conclusion. Effective facilitators provide internal summaries before moving on to the next agenda item and at the end of the meeting. Internal summaries can be a check for resistance. Make sure the group understands and is aligned before moving on. The job of a facilitator is to connect the dots.
Use a Flipchart and Post it Notes. A flipchart or whiteboard is a facilitator's best resource. The flipchart allows you to capture information in the moment. It's also a way of controlling the group dynamic. When the discussion is disrupted, ask people to write questions on the post it notes and put them on the parking lot (flipchart). Later, the facilitator can answer them.
Remain Objective. Never drive your own agenda.The role of the facilitator is to access information from the group and to remain neutral.
Keep Moving in the Direction of the Problem. Write the problem statement for all to see. When the problem is clear, you'll be able to direct the discussion in the right direction while still being impartial.This prevents the group from losing focus.
Control the Discussion. A facilitator is the orchestra leader and the participants are the musicians. Questions are the baton. Just like the conductor knows how to bring up the string section and lower the brass, a skilled facilitator uses questions to guide and direct the discussion.
Keep a List of Action Items. Without action items, things will fall through the cracks. A good facilitator will assign attendees a role, a responsibility, and a deadline. To ensure accountability, it's wise for the facilitator to follow up before the next meeting.
Good facilitation skills will increase meeting productivity, lead to more creative solutions, and are essential for managing group dynamics. The facilitator as leader must remember to check the ego at the door. When it comes to facilitation, it's not about you. It's about them!
What has worked for you as a facilitator? What are your biggest challenges?
Speaking is the new competitive advantage. At least that's what I told my audiences until last week. I was excited to attend a wellness conference during the weekend in New York City. The keynote speaker was a celebrity I admired. But what was more exciting were the topics. Most of the speakers were doctors, dentists, and health professionals. The presenters spoke for 20 minutes as in a TED talk format and the presentations continued non-stop throughout the day.
Some of the research was cutting edge and I was eager to learn from the presenters. My enthusiasm quickly turned to boredom after sitting through the first few presentations. Clearly, the presenters were subject matter experts with impressive credentials. But they quickly sacrificed their credibility when they stepped up to the platform. What a lost opportunity! Here are three mistakes that were consistent among the speakers.
1. Using the Microphone Ineffectively
Almost every speaker held the microphone at chest level or too far away from their mouth. When the audience can't hear, they tune out. It also makes the subject matter expert look like an amateur. A microphone should be held no further than four inches below the mouth. My recommendation to the event planner was to provide an attached microphone or require a rehearsal with the hand held mic.
2. Being Speaker-Centered
This is all too common in business. I've experienced it in every kind of speaking situation including sales presentations. There was one woman in particular who spent most of the time telling her story. Not only was it too long; it was all about me, myself, and I. Here's the 411 on the audience. They don't care about you! They're interested in what you and your information can do for them. Yes, tell your story. We want to know you on a personal level. But keep it brief and move on to provide value.
It's not difficult to be listener-centered. I've demonstrated in one minute or less how to take any subject and create a listener-centered opening that speaks to the listener's self interest. It's not about you. It's about them! Chapter 7 in Knockout Presentations reveals the process of Listener-Centered Communication. It's powerful.
3. Bad Timing
Both the presenter and the coordinator are culpable when time commitments are not kept. The reason speakers run out of time is a) they have too much material b) they didn't rehearse out loud. One speaker was telling an interesting story and realized she had two minutes left. She stopped in the middle of the story and quickly flipped through to the end of the PowerPoint slides. The presentation lost impact. And this was a subject I really wanted to hear. At this point, my friend leaned over and whispered, "Diane, this is a real opportunity for you." (Not a good sign).
Were there other mistakes? Yes. But these were the most common errors. Were there any good presenters? Yes. I can think of two, maybe three. The celebrity keynote was excellent. It was obvious that she had a lot of public speaking experience. What is the lesson here? Poor presentation skills do not motivate an audience to action. I didn't approach any of the speakers after hearing them present on stage.
There was a silver lining, though. I won the grand prize - a Vitamix blender! So all was not lost - except the opportunity for the presenters to build their brand and increase their business.
We've heard about managing by walking around. We've heard about leading by storytelling. But can you laugh your way to leadership? It turns out that laughter is an important leadership and presentation skill. But when it comes to humor in the workplace men are more skilled than women.
Judith Baxter, professor of applied linguistics at Aston University in the U.K, studied how men and women use language. She observed men and women who were leading high level meetings. Baxter found women to be less at ease using humor. 80% failed when attempting to be humorous and sometimes derailed as a result. In contrast, Professor Baxter observed that 90% of men's humor got a laugh. This reminds me of the numerous times women have told me that their ideas aren't taken seriously. Yet, when a man presents the same idea minutes later, it's enthusiastically embraced.
Are men naturally funnier than women? Baxter didn't answer that question, postulating instead, that culture plays a role. We expect men to be funny but don't have the same expectation of women. Teasing and one-upmanship resulted in laughter from men, but it was risky for women to use the same tactics. When I speak to women leaders, it's been my experience that women don't take enough credit for their accomplishments and speak in more self deprecating terms. Motivational speaker Tony Robbins contrasted the male one-upmanship communication style with the female pattern, which he dubbed 'one-downmanship'.
In addition to cultural expectations, Baxter cited minority status as another reason for this difference in effective use of humor. She observed an 80/20 male-to-female ratio in the meetings she attended. Being in the minority made some women defensive and less relaxed. An interesting turn of events occurred in meetings with middle managers. When the meetings were more gender balanced or contained more women, the women got more laughs.
So could lack of female confidence once again be at the core of this gender difference in humor? Is this one of the reasons women get stuck in middle management? Is humor the missing key to leadership advancement? Speaking may be the new competitive advantage but humor may be the leadership edge.
What's been your experience? Should women leaders study stand-up comedy?
Back in September, I wrote about When Celebrity Speakers Fail to Deliver. This post generated interest and was re-posted as an article on the The International Association of Franchisees and Dealers' website. UK-based Business Growth Specialist Andy Gwynn commented that he liked my article and referenced his own list - The Top Things to Consider When Booking Your Keynote Speaker. I think this is an excellent list, so I'm sharing it with you.
How do you know that you have got the right speaker for the job?
1. What experience do they have on the subject that you want them to speak on?
2. Have you seen video testimonials of clients or attendees that have seen and heard them speak?
3. How detailed is their fact find of you when you speak with them?
- Do they ask you about your audience and what message /content/value you want them to deliver in their keynote?
4. Do they send you a comprehensive “speaker booking form” to help them help you get the very best value from booking them?
5. Do they ask about your organization's culture and the overall message or theme of your event?
6. What physical “takeaways” do they offer to give your audience, such as documents, downloads, books, cd’s, DVD’s, etc?
7. How focused on you and your audience are they compared to focusing on their needs, fees, expenses etc?
8. Can you speak with previous clients of theirs?
9. Do they ask you about your event and offer suggestions that might help?
- Like timings, sound and AV specifications, marketing.
10. Do they offer to stay behind after their presentation to interact with your audience or are they just going to “grab their money and run?
11. Do they offer any sort of follow up / contact or support for you or your audience?
12. How confident are you that they will “under promise and over deliver”?
There's a line from a Peter Paul and Mary song, Where Have All the Flowers Gone? that goes "When will they ever learn? When will they ever learn?" Well, I want to know, "Where have all the good networkers gone?" In some instances I've started using Skype video as a first point of contact. The conversation starts out cordial. I usually ask the person to tell me about themselves and their business. It's rare that I'm asked that question first. We have a brief friendly interchange and may even discover something in common.
But then it happens. The SALES PITCH! I watched my own eyes glaze over on the Skype video as the person yammered on about the offer. I learned every component, compartment, and crevice of that product. There didn't seem to be much awareness of my state of ennui. No conversation-just a fast moving monologue like a getaway train.
Can you spell dialogue? Communication is a two way street.
Losing hope that it would finally come to an end, I used my media training skills and made a bridge statement to my business. More often than not, I'll have to use a "pattern interrupt" to bring them back into their bodies. It's as if they get lost in the verbal vomiting and forget that there's another person in the room. During one interchange I asked, "Just out of curiosity, what do you think I do?"
Bad networking pervades every venue. How many networking lunches have you attended where people drone on? The worst example was a guest who stood up and read a three page testimonial. Get me the gong! Here's the truth: less is more. People remember less the longer you speak.
Networking is not about speech-making. It's about building relationships. How can you do that if you only talk about yourself? Knowing I'm not alone in this experience, I asked my friend how she handles networking gone amuck. She confided that she now sets limits in her networking meetings. She tells people that she will meet on the condition that they don't talk about their products and services. She only wants to get to know them.
Networking, like public speaking, is a skill. And skills can be learned. Here are some tips to enhance your networking conversations and presentations:
Prepare. Go to the website and learn about the other person. Learn about their customers and alliances. They could be a source of referrals.
Be Curious. Get to know the other person as an individual and not as a business owner. There is hidden treasure you can mine when you learn about a person's life. Uncovering their interest in golf, could lead to an invitation to play and meet others at a country club.
Give to Give. Come from a place of helping without thinking of yourself. Ask how you can help them. Remember the rule of reciprocity. When you give to someone they will feel obligated to give back.
Less is More. To make your message sticky, explain what you do in a simple sound bite. I recently challenged my readers to give their elevator speech in 7 words or less. I invite you to take the challenge. Remember FDR's quote: "Be sincere, be brief, be seated."
Put in the Time. Nobody is going to refer a person they just met. Building trust takes time. Be willing to invest in relationship building. Stay in touch with phone calls, emails, and cards.
Don't Sell. Frequently, the person you meet is not going to be a direct buyer but their contacts could be a customer for you. The time to sell is when someone is interested in buying.
So where have all the good networkers gone? You'll know them when you see them. I met a couple of good networkers last week. It was a real conversation- full of questions, comments, suggestions, energy, smiles, and real interest.
You won't hit it off with everybody but when you practice these six tips you'll maximize every conversation and build a strong network.
My coaching client was practicing his presentation. As he talked about the company process for managing a stock portfolio, he explained their stock picking discipline. Regardless of the portfolio manager’s expertise, it’s required to drop a stock when it dips below a certain level. In other words, they may carry big winners, small winners or small losers, but they don’t tolerate stocks that are big losers. This number or percentage is how they factor out emotions and manage risk. After explaining the stock picking discipline, he looked up and asked me, “What are my presentation disciplines?
Karen was newly appointed to her position in finance, where she was responsible for managing and keeping the department on budget. Soft-spoken and petite, Karen had a hard time making herself heard during meetings, as her aggressive team shouted over her and challenged her when she questioned their figures...
Most people would agree that meetings are a waste of time. One frustrated employee showed me her calendar. Seventy per cent of her time was scheduled for meetings. How can any person or organization be productive if they are sitting in meetings all day? But people need to communicate about their projects, goals, customers, etc. So the question is, when does it make sense to have a meeting? First, know why and when to call a meeting-What outcomes are you trying to achieve?
When to Have a Meeting
- To gain buy-in and commitment.
- To deliver information to several people quickly.
- To make a time sensitive decision.
- When several people need the same information at the same time.
- You've received several calls or emails about the same situation.
When NOT to Have a Meeting
- Tradition. Your team has always met on this day.
- There is no particular issue or topic.
- You already know what to do and you're the decision-maker.
- The appropriate people are not available to attend.
Use these guidelines reduce the number of meetings and increase your productivity.
Situation: Karen was newly appointed to her position in finance, where she was responsible for managing and keeping the department on budget. Soft-spoken and petite, Karen had a hard time making herself heard during meetings, as her aggressive team shouted over her and challenged her when she questioned their figures. Karen's team was over budget, and she was concerned about her credibility when she had to present her figures to corporate at an up-coming meeting. Recognizing the importance of asserting her authority, Karen sought coaching to increase her confidence and to learn strategies for maintaining control. Solution: We worked on increasing the volume and conviction in Karen's voice. Initially, she wasn't aware of her vocal range and didn't believe she could project. Together, we practiced breathing exercises before the meeting to calm Karen's nerves. With a specially created template, Karen began to organize her ideas so she would not get intimidated and lose her train of thought. Karen also developed strategies for dealing with people who lobbed hostile barbs or tried to interrupt her when she was speaking.
Result: After the big meeting, Karen said she felt prepared, organized, and confident. She was able to hold her ground and support her position. The note-taking system helped her to stay focused and maintain her credibility.
Do you know people who get lost in the crowd? We can help them rise above the noise, find their voice, and communicate with confidence.
Do your meetings fall flat? Do you have difficulty getting a discussion going? Do discussions go off track? Leading a meeting requires more than good presentation skills. When the purpose is to get information and opinions from others it's imperative to have good facilitation skills. There is a process to asking good questions and eliciting participation from everybody.Learn four facilitation techniques from this brief video.