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Effective Meetings and Presentations

Introduction

      For many people, organizational life is characterized by considerable time spent in meetings, some of which involve designing, presenting, or viewing presentations. Unfortunately, many of these meetings are unnecessary, poorly run, or characterized by time wasting presentations that fail to accomplish any productive purpose. This week focuses on examination of this important staple of organizational life.

Meeting Preparation

      Effective meeting management can be subdivided into two parts: Meeting preparation and the conduct of the meeting. Perhaps the most common mistake in preparing for business meetings is failure to evaluate three key components. They are meeting purpose, meeting participants, and planning for the conduct of the meeting. Many managers block off identical times for weekly staff meetings despite the fact that the purpose of each get together may vary. For example, some meetings may focus on problem solving while others may emphasize information sharing. Others may be used to induce commitment for new plans or operational procedures. Effective meeting planning requires that an agenda and materials be prepared ahead of time. In their absence, participants usually come unprepared, speak without the benefit of relevant data, and often react to what a manager says. Similarly, trying to say too much in too little time impairs ineffective impairs the conduct of meetings. Even when adequate preparation occurs, a common problem is that many managers do not know how to conduct effect meetings. The meeting should start on time, review the agenda, get a summary report from participants, balance the need for input and discussion with keeping participants on track, discourage premature rejection of ideas, prevent social loafing by assigning specific tasks, and end on time with a review of action items.

Effective Presentation Components

Effective presentations require assessment of audience needs, a logical and easily understood thought flow, and visual aids that enhance understanding. One reason many presentations seem stale and fail in their objectives is reliance on a canned approach. These one size fits all meetings fail to assess the needs of the audience. Is the presentation’s purpose to inform, persuade, or motivate? Identifying the needs of the audience begins with pre-planning to learn what participants’ expectations are. For example, only by asking participants ahead of time will a presenter discover if participants want factual data, or an opportunity for discussion. A logical thought flow increases perceived credibility because it portrays the presenter’s ideas in a coherent easy to follow form. Visual aids are one of the most important, but poorly understood aspects of professional presentations. According to Osborn and Osborn (1991), visual aids shorten meeting time by up to 28% and increase retention and up to 50%. To achieve these efficiencies, the key is to adapt the visual aids to the audience needs. For example, include materials that contain supporting evidence if you believe your credibility is perceived as low. It is also necessary to tend to visual attractiveness, avoiding clutter by highlighting only key points, and rehearsing the process of integrating visual aids into spoken material.

Conclusion

      An effective meeting is the result of evaluating its purpose, agenda, time management, and action steps to reduce ambiguity about responsibilities for action. Since presentations are often a part of meetings, they also conform to conventions of effective communication. This includes beginning with understanding audience needs, a lucid flow of ideas and key points, and crisp visual aids that increase audience receptivity and understanding.

 

Reference

Osborn, M. & Osborn, S. (1991). Public speaking. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.