How meetings can be productive, + being a good client

by | Feb 12, 2024 | Personal development | 0 comments

Reading Time: 10 minutes

Reflections on meetings that I have attended

I have lost count of the number of meetings I have been to, large or small, harmonious or fractious, successful or confusing, aimless or full of purpose. As you may know I always wait until the day before deciding on my topic. This afternoon I had a meeting with my new web designer in, where else, Wetherspoon’s. You would expect this pub to be fairly quiet in mid afternoon but no, there were people coming in, there were no booths available, so we took refuge upstairs to a quieter place.

I think most meetings are doomed from the start because some of the parties have a hidden agenda and an expectation about how the meeting will end, irrespective of the merits or the point of view of the opposition. I think before meetings, everyone should declare their interest financial or otherwise. If it starts off with lack of transparency things will only get worse from then on.

Chairing a meeting is not a skill that is inherited; it requires a certain inclusivity of mind and soul,  and an ability to detect the relevant and timely points. The skill involves preventing the meeting from being run or driven by one or two people who have a lot to say. The skill involves detecting the people who are shy to speak but nevertheless have a valid point. It involves detecting people who are troublemakers and have their own political agenda though this is more difficult these days with paid infiltration groups

Most people do not read the agenda of the meeting beforehand. In my view most participants see a committee meeting or meeting as a necessary evil and do not take the time to compose themselves for the spirit of sharing and compromise that may be necessary.

When I have attended business meetings as a potential client it is extremely annoying and insulting when it becomes quite clear that the person offering the service has only brushed through your carefully prepared piece, and will cover this up by saying ‘so what do you really want us to do then?’ Faced with such questions I would be tempted to walk out immediately because when I prepare for my own clients I focus for about 10 to 15 minutes beforehand and read the brief to see if I can help and if so in what way

It is a great tragedy in the world of politics that truth, particularly scientific truth, is sacrificed at the altar of corporatism and profit taking but there is nothing much I can do about that so we will swiftly move on.

I know that some chairman do not relish the task of running their meeting which in a way is drawing the short straw. You can hear it in their voice. This is something we have to do and get through as quickly as possible in order to repair to the pub and have a drink, something like that

One of the greatest assets of chairman can have is a sense of humor. Humor can defuse a potentially sensitive situation. I’m not saying we should trivialize a situation. There is a certain type of humor that does not diminish or ridicule people and yet enables the meeting to proceed with greater aplomb.

It is interesting to read the  etymology and meaning of this word aplomb. Here it is.

“assurance springing from confidence in oneself,” 1828, from French aplomb “self-possession,” literally “perpendicularity” (16c.), from phrase à plomb “poised upright, balanced,” etymologically “on the plumb line,” from Latin plumbum “(the metal) lead” (see plumb (n.), of which the weight at the end of the line was made.

If a meeting is about a particular subject or more importantly to launch a particular product or service, then special protocols apply. The purpose of a launch meeting is to do just that, to have your bottle of champagne, I name that this ship…. , release it and it will hopefully slide down into the water and float.

Launch Meetings

At launch meetings, it is important to keep a protocol of no interruption because it is too easy to turn a meeting into a political rant or a general complaint about the state of the world and once you have left the motorway it is very difficult to get back.

In general, we need to avoid so-called hidden agenda questions which normally come in two parts. The first part is a innocuously sounding question for example what do people think about the social services. To the response then the kicker question will come in saying in that case if you value this so much why have you made this particular decision to cut services. Hidden agenda questions seldom work as they annoy the other side and do not convey the relevant information designed for people to move forward in unity.

Meetings are particularly difficult and meaningless when one side for example a council have been given instructions by those higher above that a particular policy must be enacted whatever the view of the people. People will stand up and have their three minutes of glory which are then completely ignored. This has come to the fore recently with the recent forced medical procedures.

The Mechanics of meetings

How often have I been at meetings when you can scarcely hear the speaker. Above a certain level of attendance and size of the hall different acoustics operate and you have to strain to hear what is being said. Microphones and loudspeakers should definitely be used and many loud speakers at low volume are better than one loudspeaker being pushed to its maximum.

If we have technical aids such as slideshows then please, please check the working beforehand rather than a speaker trying to fuss around and get his apparatus to go. If you have a remote control make sure the battery is not near to its working end of its life.

I do feel that there should be someone at the door to welcome everyone into the meeting and thank them for showing up . There is nothing worse than turning up to a public meeting, sidling into a corner without speaking to a living soul. You are not just where you are there willing to lend a sympathetic here to what is taking place . At conferences I think one of the most important people is the greeter on the door. They set the tone convert they welcome you, they show you to your seat if necessary, and they make you feel valued

Latecomers – can be ushered in discreetly at the back I’m talking about an audience now.

The meeting should always end on a respectful note for example ‘thank you all for coming and listening to people. Your presence and  concern does make a big difference to the atmosphere. We will keep you in touch with developments and you will read about it in the local press’

Our meeting today

So our little meeting this afternoon consisted of the three of us. My new web service provider who I had not previously met, myself and Françoise. He had recently been on a ski holiday in the Alps and described that two days were baking hot but other days were unsuitable for skiing due to the weather conditions and plummeting temperatures.  He had never before skied and it had taken 20 years of persuasion from friends before he finally decided to have a go at it.

He recounted seeing a lady over 60 years of age learning to ski over a one-week period to a competence that enabled her to go from the top to the bottom after having used the lift. He obviously admired her for this.

When I am part of the meeting and especially if I am running one, I try to make it as light-hearted as possible without being frivolous. I like to look down from a height on the job in hand and try to set it in some sort of realistic perspective.

My diary is not designed to make money,  but intends to show what it is like to live in this part of the world and not only survive but thrive. It also contains frequent comments on my life as a Christian and how I find the challenges associated with standing up for anything.

The aim of today’s meeting was first of all to meet in person the new web designer and to acquaint myself with his method of thinking. This is very important when I have dealings in the future not to mention conversations by email and on the telephone. It helps enormously if two people have the same sense of humor and if they take a laid back approach to life.

Sometimes it is a good idea to tell someone in words and at other times it is a good idea to draw something on paper. The more ways the mind is stimulated the better it can react. I’m not saying that drawing is necessary but it does help to bring a new idea to life.

The client should be open to ideas even if they conflict with his own. The problem is that the client is often so close to his own work that he cannot see it how the average person in the street would see it. The most common mistake people make is to try to appeal to everybody. If you do that, you will appeal to nobody. So if you want to help left handed people who are experiencing problems with manufactured items due to their design then people will perfectly well know that the advert is aimed at them. Another mistake is to put far too much into the advert and claim to be an expert in too many things. In this case, less is more is a good rule.

Misbehaving clients

Clients do not help their cause by demanding everything immediately. In my not inconsiderable experience this is due to lack of organization and prioritization . You may suddenly realize that your website is not suitable but it has been sitting there for two years so will a few days make any difference?  The main factor is that the two participants for client and the provider are in sync and they are aware that workhouse to be done

I have been on the receiving end of people who have promised services and yet have not delivered . Everyone wants to please but you do not please someone by saying you will do it tomorrow or the day after and go back to your diary and realize that you have made the same promise to two other people for this time period. I do recommend that you say for example that you will try to do something this week but it will definitely do the job by the end of next week. It’s almost better to under promise or over deliver.

I remember being on a plane once when the captain said that there would be a delay of 45 minutes . When we left after 20 minutes we were all grateful to him . If he had said I don’t know how long the delay would be perhaps a minimum of 10 minutes that would not have had the same effect.

The Weatherspoons environment was good enough for three or four people but had there been 8 or more it would be difficult to hear someone in the further reaches of the group and so I would go to the expense of hiring a room to have such a meeting.

After the meeting

I am of a very methodical disposition and at the end of meeting I always put things in writing while it is clear in my mind which normally means straight away. I highlighted the actions that we’re going to be taken which by the were by mutual agreement, and then referred to the next phase of development which will be associating myself with social media.

When I am part of any meeting I’ve tried to avoid the dreaded irritation makers such as

* technical malfunction,
*  bad sound,
* bad chairing,
* people allowed to ramble on endlessly,
* jumping from one subject to another,
* not being too military and
* having a sense of humor
* restless and noisy children

I hope that these remarks will be of some help to someone else there. Think of the word aplomb and it’s meaning.

And Finally —   outside my doctors surgery. Spring is coming.

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February 2024



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