The climate of conversation determines the success of a meeting rather than factual arguments. Ten tips to control the web of relationships. […]
At first, it seems that everything in a meeting is primarily about the matter. Nevertheless, the conversation around a factual topic can be intensely influenced by feelings. For example, communication models assume that the relationship between material and relationship components is comparable to an iceberg: about 20 percent appear directly on the material level, while the other 80 percent take place covertly in the relationship area. However, this part requires a lot of attention in order for the meeting to be successful. Ten tips for this:
Regardless of whether a routine meeting or a single conference is scheduled, the temptation is great to work through as many topics as possible and thus fall into the complexity trap. As a result, the attention of those involved in the conversation decreases very quickly. At the latest when the results are summarized, the perspective is lost.
It is best to structure the agenda items according to the KISS method (keep is simple and stupid): once the participants have greeted and introduced each other, the topic block, summary and the further procedure will be discussed. However, the topic block should include as few individual topics as possible. If the topic is very complex and further structuring is necessary, sub-items should be discussed in advance. Individual discussions are also conceivable for unproblematic individual questions.
Especially in complicated situations with different interests, it makes sense to take a step-by-step approach and first confer with selected stakeholders. However, there is a risk that later participants may feel ignored and probably the results of the subsequent joint meeting will be questioned. For preliminary talks, therefore, a certain stage of preparation makes sense. In connection with the scheduling, the travel recommendation or the help with the hotel booking, there are numerous opportunities for an exchange of ideas – either directly or via the secretariats.
Traveling costs time and money, so meetings can be organized using modern media, such as conference phones, video conferences or online meetings. These media are ideal for routine meetings between well-known actors. Personal contact is a must for kick-offs, crisis talks or decision-making with great significance.
Is it possible to expect excessive explanations in the routine meeting? Does the strategy conference lead to a painful decision? Then time management is a good idea, which uses the everyday habits of life: at lunchtime we go to dinner, the rush hour heralds the end of work and thus causes unrest in the meeting room. Planned according to the situation, these guardrails can meaningfully limit the duration of the meeting or allow a suitable break.
The meeting preparation begins with the invitations. Within the company, online calendars can perhaps be used for efficient scheduling, otherwise the invitation is the first way to get in touch with the planned participants. The first impression counts, even if the actors already know each other from a different context. Even small gestures have a big effect: can a parking space be offered, are there any local peculiarities to be taken into account when arriving, is the session period acceptable for all participants and “compatible” with the arrival?
The greeting does not begin in the meeting room, but already on the way there. Already at the reception, address the participants by their names and show them the way to the meeting room.
It is unlikely that all participants will arrive at the same time and exactly at the beginning of the meeting. This results in good opportunities to signal further appreciation:
- the small snack from the tea kitchen will especially please the participants who have travelled further;
- the five-minute time limit saves late participants the embarrassment of bursting into the welcome phase with an apology;
- a printed agenda with a list of participants as well as name tags and writing material on the table creates an equal eye level for all participants.
Ideally, this can be combined with an attention, which is decorated with the company logo for the recognition value, as a “small gift to you friendship receives”. The decisive factor for this is not the material value, but only the friendly gesture.
With the greeting and presentation of the planned course of the meeting, a round of introductions can be directly linked to a so-called flash light: what expectations did the participants bring with them, is the order of the planned course acceptable, are there any unconsidered aspects? True, this approach requires the courage to open up space for unforeseen situations. However, it creates an open discussion climate that can still pay off.
Visualizations can support the meeting process in a meaningful way. However, the foil insert will then create distance if it gives the impression of placing ready-made meeting results. On the other hand, a jointly developed sketch – for example on a flipchart – promotes an open discussion atmosphere and can lead to better results, because all participants can actively participate in the events and find themselves again.
This is especially crucial when discussing technologically complex issues among various groups of people, such as the department and IT department or IT managers in the company’s management meeting. The flipchart sketches can be easily photographed and documented and, if necessary, later converted into a professional graphic.
Experienced moderators summarize the discussion result at the end of each meeting point in their own words and ensure through active inquiries that at the latest here a contradiction can be registered for the last time. If this is not the case, the result is recorded in the minutes. Of course, it is desirable to bring about a consensual decision, but it is not the focus alone.
The decisive factor is the formulation of the collectively borne result, which adequately takes into account minority opinions. Especially in difficult meeting situations, modern media allow the results to be formulated directly and displayed visibly for all participants by means of a beamer. Ideally, the minutes are available at the end of the meeting.
The best conversation results are worthless if they are not followed up immediately after the meeting. The basis for this is the rapid provision of documentation of the results, possibly with a time delay for reviewing the participants to third parties – if formal approval of the protocol is necessary. Then it is important to actively pursue the results or goals, whether in a one-on-one meeting or in the follow-up meeting. This is where the cycle closes: the more positive the participants remember the meeting, the more successful the follow-up contact will be.