You can lead kickass meetings and trainings

Sep 13, 2012 by

I’ve ranted about crappy meetings and conference presentations in this space before, but I needed to come back to it in light of the somewhat ridiculous number of meetings, conferences and trainings I’ve been planning and attending lately.

Designing trainings and other adult learning experiences is one of my deepest passions and I spend a LOT of time thinking about how to make them interesting, fun and useful. The same came be said for meetings I lead (though to a slightly lesser extent – its hard to make most meetings fun, no matter how great you are at planning them).

Here are a few suggestions for making your next meeting or training as kickass as it can be:

  • Plan, plan, plan and be prepared – You’re shocked right? The Queen of Planning suggests you plan yet again? Why yes I do. Whether you’re giving a conference session or a training, you should spend AT LEAST double the amount of time the actual session takes planning for it. Along with a coworker, I’m giving a full two-day presentation in early October. Even though each of us have presented on similar topics before, we’ve already spent at least 10 hours prepping and we’ll spend at least 15 to 20 more before we’re done (all for a total of about 12 training hours). For regular meetings that I lead, I spend anywhere from 10 minutes to a few hours prepping for them – the prep includes following up on action items from the last meeting, developing an agenda and making sure any key documents are close at hand before we step into the meeting.
  • Decide on outcomes and goals – This fits into the ‘plan’ category above, but deserves its own separate mention. You should NEVER walk into a meeting, training or conference session without some idea of the goals and outcomes you want to come out with on the other end. It can be as simple as “people will feel they’ve learned something” and as complicated as developing a full workplan for a project you’re doing. Either way, you need to know what is coming out of the meeting and communicate it to others OR cancel the meeting before it even starts.
  • Customize and be Flexible – At this point, I have a few standard trainings that I’ve given several times. While I love designing new trainings, giving a tried and true presentation is so much easier and can be just as fun. The key is that you’ve got to make it relevant to the audience to which you’re speaking. Each training, presentation or meeting should be customized based on that audience and you should also be flexible in case of changes. One never knows what may come up: someone gets sick, a new person joins your meeting at the last moment, the projector won’t work, etc. If you’re prepared and know what your outcomes are, you can flex and bend with the changes.
  • Go with the Flow – This one is a bit more difficult to learn admittedly, but if you think about meetings or trainings you’ve sat through where you jarringly moved from one topic to another or the speaker didn’t explain how an example connects to the overall theme, you’ll know what bad flow means. Try to think of your training and meeting like you used to think about writing papers in college: you start out with a thesis statement, provide some evidence points and then conclude by reiterating your thesis. A meeting or training should be the same and it should make sense.

Now: go forth and kick ass in all of your meetings and trainings!

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