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An Important Meeting Ingredient

Pump up your performance to motivate attendees.

By Bill Brown, DTM


Illustration of orange toolbox with Toastmasters logo

Click play to hear extra advice on how to have a quality meeting from author Bill Brown, DTM.


Nobody likes to sit through a boring meeting, yet all too often that’s exactly where we find ourselves. Hopefully, you’re not the one at the front of the room at the time. Yet it is easy to let it happen when leading meetings, especially when you are online. How do we avoid it?

One surefire recipe for a boring meeting is when the person running it views their task as merely passing on information or getting through an agenda.

The biggest problem with this recipe is that an important ingredient is missing— motivating the attendees, even if they are required to be there.

A meeting can take many forms. It can be a team meeting in a conference room, whether in person or online. It can be a larger meeting where the speakers are educating the attendees on a topic of interest, such as a bill coming before the local city council. It can be a meeting of members in an organization, such as Toastmasters, where adding to membership is vital to the future of the organization.

Whether the attendees are required to attend, committed to the cause, or just checking things out, they are all asking themselves questions. Questions like, “Does the leader have their act together? Do I want to follow or work for them if they don’t?” or “Why is this taking so long? Just because the leader has all day doesn’t mean that I do.” Or, perhaps, “I don’t see any passion here. If they don’t care about their topic, why should I?”

In other words, as meeting leader you are communicating far more than just information. You are creating in the participants the desire to pay attention and to take action.

As you plan your meeting, I suggest that you think of it as a performance. You are not just running a meeting. You are not just giving a report. You are a performer practicing your craft.

Three practices are key in the sucesss of how you run a meeting.

First, keep it smooth. Imagine that you are watching the news on television and the talking heads are rambling and halting. Perhaps their favorite word is the dreaded “um.” What would you do? Probably reach for the remote and change the channel, right?

If they are nonresponsive, call the paramedics—not for them—for your performance.

You are just like a talking head, especially if you are online. If you sound like a smooth presenter, the audience will view you as interesting and worth listening to. If you don’t, they could switch their attention elsewhere, just like clicking the remote.

Second, keep it lively. Attendees gain their enthusiasm for your cause in part from the vibe they get from their fellow attendees. If the leader is dull, the audience’s energy level will be low. And if the meeting is online, especially if everyone is on mute, the vibe from the attendees is virtually nonexistent (pun intended). Watch your energy level. Keep it high. I am not talking about wild enthusiasm. Just keep a bounce in your voice. If you have a strong energy level, that will transfer to your audience.

Third, keep it moving. If there are papers or other information that you need to read or announce, make sure they are readily available. You don’t want to be seen fumbling around looking for them. Prior to the meeting, anticipate what information you might need. Have it out and in order. If you are fed information during the meeting, especially in email form, keep it at hand. Remember, a long period of searching is not your friend.

Of the three points, the third is the most important. It shows that you are in control. And it shows that you respect the listener’s time, and, hence, that you respect them.

How do you know if you are doing well? Watch the audience members to see how intently they are listening. If they are checking their email, that may indicate a problem. If they look impatient, that most definitely indicates a problem. And if they are nonresponsive, call the paramedics—not for them—for your performance.

When you lead a meeting, you wear many hats, even if your only official task is to pass on information. And one of the most important hats is keeping the audience members on board with your purpose. As you get ready to run a meeting, remember—you are not just a facilitator. You are a performer, and as a Toastmaster, an experienced one at that.


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