Posts Tagged ‘meetings’

Ideas for more effective meetings and presentations

June 22, 2013

I’ve been reading a book lately called Fearless Change. A very insightful friend of mine: Charles Bradley introduced me to it.

Fearless Change

It’s got some great ideas in Chapter 5 “Meetings and More” that I’m looking to adopt and use. There are a bunch of useful patterns that can be applied to all sorts of meetings, presentations etc. Here are some of the patterns discussed that stood out and my interpretation of them, mixed in with some of my own ideas and experiences.


Utilise existing resources, energy, practices, processes, events and/or momentum to host or leverage what you want to get across to the people receiving your idea. Marketing your idea as an add-on or improvement to a process or practise that already exists. Piggybacking your idea on top of something existing and possibly successful is far more likely to be accepted than if your idea is something entirely new and to be greeted with caution and suspicion. Often useful for getting around an organisations red tape.

Brown Bag

Most people will be familiar with this one. Most of us in the IT industry are very busy and struggle to find time to attend optional meetings where we may learn something. This is about holding your meeting in the middle of the day when people are often eating their lunch. Often a good time to add an event where they can listen while they’re eating. Although not always accepted, so it’s a good idea to test the water and check whether people will be interested in this type of event.

Do Food

Research has shown that we become fonder of people and things we experience while we are eating. Food does a great job of binding people together and increasing the feeling of group membership.
Eating together is something the human race has done since the beginning of time and is interpreted as a sign of friendship. Even mentioning that food and/or beverages will be available at an event will just about always draw more people. It also shows that someone is prepared to spend money on the food which shows a giving attitude, I.E putting your money where your mouth is.
Generally when people find out that there will be food at an event, the level of excitement increases. The food doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive either. Be aware of people that may be on diets or other wise struggle with this idea and be considerate. Offer healthy alternatives.

Right Time

Considering the time of day that you hold your event can determine how much people remember, how engaged they are. People are busy and have deadlines, investigate and try and work around these to obtain maximum attendance and interest. After projects have been delivered and the stress is off a little before the next project ramps up. Of course you’re never going to get the perfect time for everyone, so just find a slot that’s most suitable to the greatest number of people likely wanting to attend. Try not to spring dates and times on people with little advance warning. Remind attendees several times as the meeting approaches.

Plant the Seeds

Plant the Seeds

Bring reading material to your meeting. People like to have something to flick through while they are listening. Also at least another sense is engaged (touch and visual). The more senses we can engage, the higher the chance of remembrance. Leave them in an easily accessible place so people don’t feel uncomfortable picking them up, or hand them out. You may bring some photo copies of the information you’re intending to get across that people can take away with them. This will also increase the chance of adoption and remembrance. It’ll also increase discussions after the meeting.
There is often a sense of obligation to somehow repay your kindness when given a token gesture. You could also bring a collection of books you have on the subject matter that people can flick through while your presenting. People are also often persuaded by mass media materials, they provide validation of your idea and reinforce.
If you have specific reading you want people to go through, don’t just provide links (although links are important as it saves people typing out printed URL’s), but also provide the printed mater in a leaflet form.
Make sure your presentation is easily accessible. Make sure any such material that has your name on it is prominently displayed. Make sure your audience knows your available afterwards for questions and encourage them. What I thought was really interesting is that often seeds sown by reading materials will only stick with a small number, but in amongst that small number may be key people for connecting with other like minded individuals and propagating your idea.

External Validation

Associating supporting information from alternative sources validates what you’re trying to get across. Bringing sources from respected authorities or gurus that support your idea will significantly increase the chance of your idea being welcomed and accepted.
People love success stories. If you can associate your idea with that success, your chances are increased. Initially external sources are the most powerful. If you can present in a venue that your colleagues associate with or respect, your chances will be improved.
Getting a guru that people respect to publicly affirm your idea will work wonders. Getting a leader in your organisation that agrees with your idea to publicly voice his acceptance. If you can show a publication that references something you’ve done you get kudos.

Next Steps

Next Steps

Often when we attend a training session we come away wondering how we’re going to put into practice what we just heard.
Work out a plan of attack for what attendees can do once they’ve left the meeting. How are they going to apply your idea? Provide practical next steps. Don’t overload them though. What are they going to do when they get stuck?
Near the end of your meeting invite all to join in a brain storming session on how they can actually put into practice what’s been learnt. When people actively join in and provide their own ideas on what they have learnt, they will create a loose plan that will help get them started that they’ll be able to take away.
Resist telling your attendees what they need to do. Rather help lead them to create their own plan. They will know more about their specific areas of need than you do. Facilitate/empower the group to discover their own plan. Create a list of ideas and action items, just like you would if you were leading a Retrospective. Posting the list to all attendees as a reminder. Encourage your attendees to go over the information provided again within 24 hours and again within the next 7 days to help remember.


Provide a bulletin board for people interested in the subject to communicate, share and bounce their ideas off of each other. This is good for those that are not able to attend the event but still want to be part of what’s happening. Provides a flexible meeting place. You as the person promoting the idea can keep all interested parties up to date on what’s happening and how things are progressing. Setting up a mailing list will help you understand who is on-board and to what degree. A facebook event for short lived discussions, or a page, or even encourage people to discuss the idea in the comments section of your blog. Maybe a Google+ page? You’re going to have to maintain it of course.

Stay in Touch

Catch up with the people that show interest in your idea/s. Take a genuine interest in what they do, their related troubles and concerns. Unless you understand what the problems are that they face on a regular basis, how are you going to help solve them or at least die trying? Build relationships with those you intend to help. You must know them in order to provide useful answers. Maintain relationships with your key supporters and people that have lots of other related connections. Don’t loose sight of the fact that the people you’re attempting to help have feelings too and like to be heard.

Group Identity


Assigning an identity ((code)name) to a project helps people and organisations realise it’s existence. Patterns are named… Why? So when the name is mentioned, those that are familiar with the pattern know exactly what you’re talking about. A pattern can paint a thousand words or lines of code for that matter.
Meetings held at a regular interval have their own identity, assigning a name helps reference in conversation. An identity also gives the appearance of effort being asserted which helps build energy and momentum. Adding a mailing list or e-Forum helps generate a Group Identity.

Not mentioned in the book

Make things interesting and memorable. The more weird and out of the ordinary you can be with the ideas you’re trying to get across, the more likely your participants are to remember. For example, I did a presentation a while ago where I brought some carpentry tools along and some building materials. I asked for a volunteer to help with my demonstration and everyone was very interested in my demo. It’s these sorts of things that people remember.

I’ll probably update this as time goes on and I learn more and find things that work. If you’ve got other interesting ideas you’ve found that improve these sorts of events and/or thoughts about what’s been mentioned here, please comment.

By Kim Carter