In this Article...quick links
- Tip 1: Review the Purpose of Meetings and Presentations
- Tip 2: Assess Your Meeting and Presentation Audiences
- Tip 3: Shake Up Your Meeting Agendas
- Tip 4: Re-think the Timing of Meetings and Presentations
- Tip 5: Map Meetings to Location – Remote, Hybrid or In-Person
- Tip 6: Increase Presentation Impact with Storytelling
- Tip 7: Question if Each Meeting is Necessary
I don’t know about you, but I’m not a great one for making lots of New Year’s resolutions. But I have committed to a key resolution for 2024 that I intend to stick to, and that is to encourage more people in business to actively and intentionally think about how they spend their precious time – time so often spent preparing for, and sitting in, meetings and presentations.
If we can reduce the number of ineffective meetings, make more of our meetings matter, and our presentations make more of a difference, then I think that would be a fantastic start for 2024.
Research conducted by Fellow.app showed that most employees spend around 33% of their working week in meetings, that’s roughly 11 – 15 meetings per week with the longest meetings taking place on a Wednesday. For managers, the number of weekly meetings is in excess of 16 – that’s more than 3 a day.
Regardless of the format – regular team, status, client and board meetings, or ad hoc meetings such as strategy sessions, project kick-offs, campaign debriefs, or investor roadshows – these meetings all mean one thing. Lots and lots of presentations.
Presentations you’ll need to write and prepare for. And presentations you’ll need to read and listen to.
Does the thought of all these meetings fill you with excitement? Or with dread? I suspect, for many of you, the feeling you have might be the latter.
From conversations we have with clients, we know that whilst many presentations are painstakingly produced and presented, or sent out to be read, all too often nobody (or very few people) bother to listen to the information being shared, or they don’t take the time to read them at all.
I’m embarrassed to admit that this is sometimes me! And the reason this happens is because we get into a rut of running the same meetings, and delivering presentations, in the same way, week in-week out, month in-month out, and year in-year out, without ever questioning ‘Is this the right way?’ Or ‘Could there be a better way?’
So, if you feel your presentations and meetings are due for a start-of-the-year re-think, here are 7 tips to make your meetings make a difference and make your meeting’s matter:
Tip 1: Review the Purpose of Meetings and Presentations
The new year is the perfect time to review the purpose of the regular meetings and presentations you’re involved in.
Consider if they are for:
- Information sharing only?
- Explore more efficient ways of sharing this information such as via a document or email or on one of the many available online collaboration tools.
- Problem solving?
- Send a pre-read presentation or document to attendees so that they are fully prepared, well briefed, and have had thinking time in order to make useful, thoughtful, contributions. The meeting itself could then be run as a facilitated brainstorming session.
- Forums for decision making?
- Limit attendees to key decision makers and stakeholders, whose input, advice or support, is required. Again, sending a pre-read beforehand can be valuable.
- Discussion and consensus building or to provide feedback?
- Set expectations upfront so everyone is ready to provide input.
In our experience, all too often, presentations become purely information downloads, which isn’t as efficient as it could be for those involved, or for the business.
If this sounds familiar, now is a good time for re-setting the purpose of your meetings and presentations.
Tip 2: Assess Your Meeting and Presentation Audiences
Having a clear understanding of the purpose of your presentations and meetings will help guide you as to the attendees to invite.
- Are attendees relevant, or always the same people out of habit?
- Is the group so big it dilutes engagement and impact?
- Are the right people – such as key decision makers – missing from your meeting and stalling progress?
- Are these meetings and presentations a good use of their time?
Perhaps there are so many attendees, maybe from many different parts of the business, that some presentations have become too generic, and therefore they are no longer meaningful or engaging.
In every presentation skills workshop we run, the first thing we discuss is the importance of understanding the needs, wants and motivators of your audience.
So cast a fresh eye on your meeting and presentation invite lists (and consider the purpose of having it in the first place) and make sure you’ve got the right eyes and ears present to achieve what you want.
Apply the same rigour to audience selection as you do presentation content.
Tip 3: Shake Up Your Meeting Agendas
Perhaps you have the same status meeting every week and the same agenda has been followed for years. It is time to shake this up so the meeting format or presentation content is more meaningful for the team.
Perhaps you could even make this an agenda item i.e. ‘Agenda review – time for a refresh?’.
If you’re presenting regular reports to clients, the beginning of the new year is an ideal time to ask them directly if the presentations you prepare are relevant for them and their decision-making. If not, ask what you can do differently to make these presentations more valuable for them.
Don’t waste this opportunity for a re-set!
Here are some points to consider when you are setting your agenda so that all participants have the same expectations.
- What is the objective of the meeting and what do you need to get out of it?
- If it’s a team meeting make sure the topics affect all of the team and not just a few. If they don’t, consider holding different meetings with fewer attendees.
- Ask attendees in advance what they want to discuss. If their item is not included, make sure they know why (it doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be there!).
- Make sure each agenda item is clearly explained – rather than an ambiguous heading – and circulate the agenda in advance so that attendees can prepare their thoughts.
- Allocate one person to lead each item of discussion and ensure the group does not go off topic.
- Set a specific amount of time for each agenda point.
In our view, if a meeting doesn’t have an agenda, there shouldn’t be a meeting.
Setting dynamic agendas will make meetings more meaningful. Time for a refresh!
Tip 4: Re-think the Timing of Meetings and Presentations
Why is it that we think that all meetings and presentations have to be 30 or 60 minutes long? Why can’t they be 20 minutes or 40 minutes instead?
The average time spent in a meeting is between 31 and 60 minutes but conversely, the average attention span of attendees ranges from around 10 to 18 minutes.
So, consider whether scheduling shorter meetings could be more constructive, especially if presentation materials are sent as a pre-read to the attendees and the focus of the meeting is about making decisions.
Not only will your meetings probably be shorter, but for the attendees it will mean they can focus on the important items requiring discussion, problem solving and decision making.
It will also mean people have time to prepare questions in advance and therefore your meetings and presentations will be far more productive and engaging. Remember that the longer the meeting the more time you are likely to spend off-topic!
It goes without saying that you might also want to re-look at the frequency of your regular meetings and presentations. Do they need to be weekly for example? Perhaps biweekly/ or monthly would make more sense?
Shorter, more meaningful meetings can have a big impact on productivity and engagement.
Tip 5: Map Meetings to Location – Remote, Hybrid or In-Person
Most organisations are still in some flux regarding office vs home working. The beginning of the year can be a natural time to rethink which meetings and presentations should be conducted all in-person, or online, or as a hybrid. If the latter, we have some great tips on how to run hybrid meetings, that you might want to take a look at.
It’s important to remember that there is less flow in a hybrid meeting – so you may find that you need more time to cover certain topics. Also, hybrid meetings are much more tiring for those attending remotely, and it’s likely that remote attendees will be distracted and not fully engaged. As a result, you might want to make your agendas shorter and punchier for this type of meeting.
Most organisations have at least two or more common days when the entire team is in the office. Consider scheduling meetings that require important decision making on these days and use online and hybrid meetings for discussion topics and information-based presentations on other days.
With ongoing hybrid work, carefully consider which meetings suit each format:
- Remote for straightforward discussions. But beware participant distraction.
- Hybrid for some collaborative meetings. But these take more time and can be tiring for remote attendees. Keep agendas tight.
- In-person for critical decision making, brainstorms, and strategy. Schedule on office overlap days.
Map meeting objectives to the right location:
- Remote: Discussions, info sharing
- Hybrid: Some collaboration
- In-person: Critical decisions, strategy
Getting the meeting location right will optimise engagement and output.
Tip 6: Increase Presentation Impact with Storytelling
Have you noticed that some people’s presentations have defaulted to boring, and let’s face it, uninspiring formats – maybe a sea of spreadsheets, or mountains of text, or endless graphs.
Maybe you’re guilty of this? If so, challenge the status quo and see what can be done to mix this up.
Presentation slides are there to add impact to your narrative. So, look at ways you can introduce greater impact by using compelling storytelling techniques to pep up your presentations and make them more engaging.
Great storytellers follow the 3-act structure:
- The Conflict – What’s the problem to solve?
- The Journey – How will we get there?
- The Resolution – The solution and call to action.
Try to think how your presentations might look if you thought about your presentation visuals in the same way.
If you’re using slideware, data visualisation and varying your slideware are also great ways to add impact.
A picture tells a thousand words, so consider what visuals you could use – instead of lots of data – that could demonstrate the same point while you verbalise the story.
Storytelling creates compelling narratives that inspire action.
Tip 7: Question if Each Meeting is Necessary
How amazing would it be if we didn’t have to attend all the meetings we do – if we could simply give ourselves more time back in our working day.
So why not, as a team, review the meetings and presentations that you have scheduled and discuss which ones could be replaced by something quicker and simpler, such as an email, a document, a newsletter or even a recorded presentation.
Before scheduling any new meeting, ask yourself:
- Is this meeting needed or could it be an email/document instead?
- Will it be a productive use of everyone’s time?
- Is there a clear objective and desired outcome?
So let 2024 be the year that you make the most of your precious time and make all your presentations and meetings make a difference.
And one last tip, don’t be afraid to say no to a presentation or meeting. If the content isn’t relevant to you/your team, or if you don’t have anything to gain from the meeting, or nobody else will gain anything by you being there, then learn how to say no. Politely of course and always with an explanation.
Only hold essential meetings that make the best use of everyone’s time and move the needle.
Develop your own executive style and build confidence through training or 1-to-1 coaching.
If you’re looking for help on how to effectively manage meetings and deliver good presentations with confidence, for yourself, or your team, our personalised training or coaching that is tailored to your business, is just what you’re looking for! Contact us today.
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Written By Belinda Huckle
Co-Founder & Managing DirectorRead Bio
Belinda is the Co-Founder and Managing Director of SecondNature International. With a determination to drive a paradigm shift in the delivery of presentation skills training both In-Person and Online, she is a strong advocate of a more personal and sustainable presentation skills training methodology.
Belinda believes that people don’t have to change who they are to be the presenter they want to be. So she developed a coaching approach that harnesses people’s unique personality to build their own authentic presentation style and personal brand.
She has helped to transform the presentation skills of people around the world in an A-Z of organisations including Amazon, BBC, Brother, BT, CocaCola, DHL, EE, ESRI, IpsosMORI, Heineken, MARS Inc., Moody’s, Moonpig, Nationwide, Pfizer, Publicis Groupe, Roche, Savills, Triumph and Walmart – to name just a few.