This mini series is aimed at trying to convert the thousands of man years wasted every day in unproductive meetings.  It’s my attempt at giving something back to society, if you will!

In my first Blog on the subject I addressed how to get the loudmouths to shut up.  This blog is designed to address another area of significant difficulty: how to bring clarity and get buy in to the discussion from the start.

How often have you been in a meeting and found yourself pondering these questions:

  • what are we talking about?
  • why are we talking about this?
  • what does it have to do with me?

Apart from suggesting the obvious technique of  politely posing these questions to the rest of the group (which works brilliantly if done sensitively), I have another tool for you which will make it far less likely that people will have these questions.  It’s probably one to use when you are kicking off the discussion.  It works superbly in meetings, and equally well for kicking off a presentation.  And good news for you poor individuals who bounce from one conference call or WebEx session to another:  it’s a perfect tool for these too.

In the first few sentences of introducing the topic, cover off these 5 components:

I nterest

N eed

T iming

R oute Map

O bjective

The quick witted amongst you will have spotted that the initial letters here spell INTRO.  Pure genius!  So in the introduction, deal with INTRO and people will be clear about what they’re talking about and why.

Let me just give a bit more flesh on the bones here.

Interest:  say something about the topic which engages them  Some evidence, an anecdote, something relevant in today’s news, an attention grabber.  “Here’s the list of complaints I received today.”

Need:  what’s in it for you, me and us.  “This is your opportunity to influence the decision over whether we relocate or not.”

Timing: how long this is going to take.  It’s the subconscious question on everyone’s mind, especially right at the start, and when their stomachs start calling them.

Route Map: what we are going to cover, and the process by which are going to cover it.  “We’re going to discuss the budget shortfall, what we plan to do about it and then we’ll produce a revised forecast.  Let’s hear from Dave with the numbers, then brainstorm the options, agree the top 5 and then give Dave our revised forecasts so he can produce a Board paper for Friday.”

Objectives: so often the item which gets forgotten, leading to so much confusion.  Try stating them beginning with “by the end of this xxx we will  ……”  “By the end of this session we need to have agreed how many people to recruit next month, and approved the relevant agency fees.”

I urge you to prepare this introduction for the discussions you need to lead, and to observe the results.  You might even want to ask people at the end what they thought of the meeting (another way of reducing meeting dysfunctionality) so that you can see what difference it made.  Do send me any success stories to help me keep my engine fuelled!

A final thought for the day:  if you find yourself sitting regularly in meetings what are dysfunctional, you have my sympathy of course, but I do have one question for you: 


Happy meetings, all!