If stories can incite an audience to action, then how do we go about getting our stories? Janice Elsheimer in her book, “The Creative Call,” shares the importance of keeping a “day book.” I can identify with her sharing that our journals can be our companions and confidants during the most important times of our lives. “Writers can use their daybooks as a source book for ideas, images, characters, dialogue, and plot for other writing…”
Jeanne Robertson, a professional speaker who specializes in hilarious humor based on her life experiences, in a session she conducted at the National Speakers Association entitled, “Don’t let the funny stuff get away: turn everyday experiences into speech material that audiences will remember” suggests “jotting down” when something happens and writing up as soon as possible so the stories can materialize. Indeed, Jeanne Robertson is a consummate story teller herself and is described as “the aunt you can’t wait to talk to at the family reunion, who always has a new story to tell that keeps the whole family in stitches. (The Carlisle Theater, Carlisle, PA). Read more about Jeanne at her website at http://www.jeannerobertson.com/
Have you ever gone to a meeting where the meeting leader just shared facts and figures? What do you remember from that meeting? Perhaps you were able to capture the information but were your emotions stirred? Were you excited to go act on the information?
Daniel Goleman in his books on emotional intelligence (Emotional Intelligence, Working with Emotional Intelligence) suggests that it our emotions that guide us and propel us to pursue our dreams.
Next time you are leading a meeting, think about how a short story, anecdote or real-life example can “flesh” out and bring life to the facts that you are relaying.
“Tell me a fact and I’ll learn. Tell me a truth, and I’ll believe. But tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever.” -Indian Proverb from Marlo Thomas & Friends, The Right Words at the Right Time
From the time we were small; stories capture our imagination and hearts and can ignite us to action. As a professional speaker, I know first hand the incredible power of story telling and have been enthralled by speakers through the years who were able to – through their choice of words and delivery style, catapult me on a roller coaster ride of emotions, imaginations, and engagement.
But I have come to believe that story telling is not just reserved for those of us in the communication industry (speakers, writers, entertainers, or authors). The ability to tell a story can help anyone gain more persuasive power, be a more influential person, and gain credibility for your idea. The next 5 BLOG postings will help unveil the mystery of stories, how reading and telling stories can expand your mind to new ways of thinking and seeing the world, and how stories can make you a better influencer no matter what your job or life role.
Have you ever been in a meeting that didn’t allow you to meet other people? Other than strictly an informational meeting, every meeting has the potential of providing another benefit, and that is – the benefit of building relationships with each other. There are countless ways you can structure time for relationship building during or after your meeting. Here are some practical (and quick) ways you can encourage relationship building in your next meeting: (Note: These ideas can work with both intact work teams or meeting where people don’t know each other very well).
- Allow participants to introduce each other in small groups
- Conduct a fun way for people to get to know each other based on the color of M&M they choose:
- Green M&M: Share a hobby
- Yellow: Share a strength
- Red: Share a habit
- Brown: Share a recent book or movie you read or saw
- Blue: Share something others don’t know about you
- Post flipcharts with various questions and issues and ask participants to share ideas, questions, (and contact information) for people to get together after the meeting
- Conduct a “diversity Bingo” activity – where individuals sign each other’s “cards” based upon a myriad of dimensions
- Do a quick “pair and share” activity where meeting attendees discuss an issue during the meeting
Relationship building doesn’t have to take much time but you need to be intentional to make it happen. I trust these ideas will help you integrate community into your next meeting!
An effective way to build community in a meeting is to allow time for moments of celebration. We all can think of the negatives in the workplace –which frequently get attention like the squeaky wheel. So it’s important to celebrate the positives. When we focus on the positive, we can build a sense of community and positive energy. Here are a few ways you can incorporate celebration in your meeting:
- Spend the first 10 minutes of your meeting allowing people to share good news
- Structure time during your meeting to honor individual accomplishments
- Celebrate team wins in ways your group enjoys that fit your corporate culture and budget
- Allocate time for people to recognize the positive contributions of others
- Ask meeting attendees what celebration is meaningful for them and implement it
- Celebrate people’s Birthdays and work anniversary dates every month
- Bring fun food to a meeting
Positive news doesn’t have to take much time but the benefits can last longer than that meeting and maybe past the next one, too! Make room for the positives, and your team will celebrate you!
Have you ever been to a meeting where the meeting leader so focused on the agenda that he/she didn’t seem to “flex” with what the audience desired? One way you can prevent this from happening is to structure short “check-in” times during your meeting. You want to create an environment where your attendees are actively involved and engaged with the discussion and outcomes and can let you know how they are feeling or thinking. Here are some ways you can incorporate short check-in’s in your meeting:
Ask open-ended questions:
- How is everyone doing? Do we need to take a break?
- At the start of a meeting, ask this question:
- What is the biggest issue you want us to focus on in our meeting?
- At the middle or end of the meeting, ask these three questions:
- What things do I need to continue doing as a meeting facilitator?
- What things do I need to stop doing as a meeting facilitator?
- What things do I need to start doing as a meeting facilitator?
- “Before we go on to the next topic on our agenda, I’d like to hear from you your questions or thoughts. What questions can I answer?”
- Say, “Each one of you has a sticky note – go ahead and jot your thoughts about this issue – without putting your name on the note – place it on this flip chart.”
- “Talk with 2 or 3 people who are sitting around you and share what you believe to be the biggest obstacle in implementing this decision.”
By checking in with your meeting attendees, you can ensure that you engage your audience – which enhances relationships, your credibility, and their buy-in!
The third step in creating a memorable meeting is to allow for freedom. Within a structure, a meeting can thrive. It is planned and organized to make good use of everyone’s valuable time. That is when creativity and innovative ideas can flourish. Make sure your meeting allows for fun, community, creativity, and relationship building There are a myriads of ways to add fun and community building to a meeting (we’ll discuss some ways in the next 3 Blogs).
What does “freedom” look like in a meeting? Here are some examples:
- Free flow of information and energy
- Creative brainstorming where every idea is acknowledged and valued
- No one person dominating the meeting or discussion
- Ideas building upon another
But note – for a meeting to have this kind of freedom – it means there needs to be the structure of an agenda – where agenda topics and time allocations – are clearly delineated for everyone. Stay tuned for the next 3 BLOG entries that will focus on how you can allow for fun, community, creativity, and relationship building in a meeting.
The second step in creating a memorable meeting is to create a culture of encouragement. No one likes to go to a meeting and feel worse than before they arrived! Your attitude as the meeting facilitator can go a long way to contributing to the way people feel. Now that your meeting is organized (read my previous entry), you can build in moments of encouragement and affirmation. Make sure your meeting allows for fun, community, creativity, and relationship building. Sometimes you can gauge how “fun” a meeting is by the amount of humor, laughter and conversation. Certainly as a facilitator you’ll need to monitor the unproductive behaviors (tangent takers, jokers, know-it-all’s, side conversations, etc) – but part of creating a memorable meeting is making sure that there is a positive emotion that is generated. Think about some “ice breakers” that can engage your participants. Bring a smile and your positive energy.
Sometimes as meeting facilitator you need to make sure people feel “safe” when negative comments or remarks are shared. Make sure that you continue to provide a place where people can share what they are feeling – in a way that is constructive and that builds up (not tears down).
People may forget all of the topics that are discussed (that is why meeting Minutes are so important) but they will not forget how they “feel.” You can create the good feeling by creating a culture that says “I’m glad you are here.” And “You matter.”
Have you ever heard a speaker whose humor seemed so comfortable, that it even seemed spontaneous? I used to think that some speakers just “have this gift” and can “wing it.” After more than 20 years in the business, I am more and more convinced that those speakers who look like they “wing it” actually spend hundreds of hours in pre-speech practice. As much as I would like to “wing” speaking, an effective speech needs to be well-crafted and it also needs to be rehearsed and practiced often. With practice, humor can seem spontaneous and be so incredibly helpful in making a dramatic point.
So our first step in creating a memorable meeting is this – be organized! A well-run meeting does not just happen – it takes careful planning. Plan days ahead. Create an agenda. Communicate the agenda to others well in advance of the meeting. Ensure that those who have roles know their time limits. Get clear on the “end in mind” or purpose of your meeting. Anticipate who will be attending. Allow “padding time” for those that tend to go over time. Make sure that people have plenty of time to prepare for the meeting. Make sure people know “who is doing what – and when” as you summarize the meeting. And ensure that there are “meeting” minutes along with individuals assigned to action steps (and deadlines), distributed after the meeting. Start and end on time.
You’ll be surprised that with structure, there will be plenty of opportunities for creativity, relationship building and encouragement.