Here are his nine tips to prepare for your next big meeting:
- Determine the “one thing.” Never go into a meeting without a crystal clear purpose. Answer this question to determine the purpose: “After the meeting is over, what has to happen for me to feel happy with the result?” This “one thing” will be your destination to which everything else should lead.
- Focus on three talking points. You want to avoid “diarrhea of the mouth” as one of my teachers used to say. In other words, don’t blather on and on about every single idea or thought you have. Go into the meeting with just three ideas, thoughts, or points that support your “one thing” and focus the entire meeting around these.
- Be a politician. Ever notice when politicians are asked a question they always seem to steer the answer to their main talking points? This can be annoying when the answer has little to do with the question, so I’d make sure that you answer the question, but then immediately follow it up with one of your talking points.
- Create sound bites. Flip on any news broadcast or read any newspaper and you will see the sound bite in action. A sound bite is a short quote used by the media to summarize an important point or add flavor to their story. President Obama can give an hour speech, but the six-second snippet you see on CNN is the sound bite.A good speechwriter will know which two or three sound bites will make the news the next day, and if you want to create maximum impact with your meetings, you will want to create a few of your own sound bites.
- Create an agenda. If possible, create a physical agenda that is centered around your “one thing” and supports your talking points. She who creates the agenda, almost always controls the meeting. Starting out in my career, I’d always create the agenda — even if I didn’t call the meeting. I was always surprised when executives much more senior than me would strictly follow the agenda. By creating the agenda, I controlled the meeting.
- Nail the intro and the close. I can’t stress this enough. Go in with a strong opening and you’ll feel more confident throughout. Make sure it covers your main talking points. Also make sure you have a strong close that reiterates your main talking points. Don’t wing this.
- Call to action. What is the action you want your meeting attendees to take? What action must they take for you to feel happy with the meeting? Most meetings end and nobody is sure what the next steps are. Make sure everyone knows exactly what the next action is.
- After the meeting. Just because the meeting ends doesn’t mean your job is over. Often it is just getting started. Make sure you follow-up with key attendees. Send an email or write a note. And of course, make sure you subtly reinforce your “one thing” and talking points.
- Listen. Last, but arguably most important, listen. Don’t be so wired to your talking points that you turn into a robot spewing forth canned lines. It’s a meeting, not a presentation. It needs to be dynamic.