THE BLOG

How the Psychology of Meetings Matters (and Why You Should Care About It)

09/27/2013 03:04 pm 15:04:07 | Updated Nov 27, 2013

Do you like meetings? I'm willing to bet most of you will say no. Let's face it -- very often meeting managers are too focused on what they're saying as opposed to engaging others. Even worse, most of the time the manager ignores the best advice (or doesn't bother to ask for it).

Some people spend most of their meeting time wondering what everyone else is thinking. What people don't do is try to translate this into how they behave towards the people around them. Doing so is known as the psychology of meetings; the active ability to analyze those participates in meetings and why they are or aren't engaged and actively participating.

If a meeting manager or owner ignores behavior and advice, they basically have little or no knowledge of what's going on around them. That kind of narrow perspective permeates most business environments; turning meetings into lectures and the potential for greater success into moderate success or worse. And we all know how boring a lecture is...

There are many reasons people attend meetings, including:

• gaining insight and information
• complaining about issues and situations
• making decisions
• fulfilling a job requirement

Anyone who has attended a good meeting can tell you that the meeting was good because there was an environment of collaboration (Note: This means the manager/owner asked questions and actually listened to the answers and responded with active interest). Every agenda item must be relevant to every person at the meeting. One of the best ways to achieve this is by having at least some psychological understanding of each of the meeting's players.

But first, you need to have a solid foundation for your meetings...

Foundations for an Organized Meeting
I had a chance to interview Travis Davis, President and CEO at Point N Time. PNT are the makers of Meeting Mapper, an app that allows users to easily and efficiently capture 'Actionable Intelligence' in their meetings and interactions with customers and potential customers.

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Davis has had many experiences with bad meetings. Based on those years of the good, the bad and the ugly, I've asked him to share five thoughts and suggestions as to what meeting managers and business owners should be thinking and doing whenever they plan a meeting. Here they are:

1 -- Why Are You Holding a Meeting?
Do you have a justifiable and identifiable reason for this meeting? If not, you need to think twice about tying up the already jam-packed schedules of those you're asking to attend.

You should always have a clear goal/objective for your meeting. What's your plan of action? Have you set concrete objectives?

Encourage collaboration. Always work together with others to set real, measureable goals. Over time, track your progress as a group; provide positive, inspiring reinforcement for everyone.

2 -- Are You Prepared?
If the person managing the meeting is not well-prepared to run it with set goals, topics and the right skill-set, they shouldn't be running the meeting; especially if the agenda items aren't relevant to everyone.

3 -- Can You Stay on Point?
Do you talk too much? Are you always focusing on the negative? A meeting is not a place to satisfy your ego or a dumping ground for any/every problem or challenge. Those become morale killers and time wasters.

Bad news should always come first, whether it's about company performance or personnel changes. But if you have weak links, deal with them one on one.

Keep your focus on those who are doing things the right way. It's also important to stick to your time limit. Set a habit of respecting other people's time and they'll do the same for you.

4 -- Update and educate.
Products, competition, pricing, marketing, technology... you have to keep the new and relevant information flowing, but in a way that allows people to absorb and maintain it. Be concise, succinct and don't overwhelm people. Pay attention and make sure everyone is with you all the way. Remember -- it's about them, not you.

5 - Motivation
How can you inspire your sales team before they leave the room so that they get the results they want and need? Stay focused on the positive and make sure to acknowledge all those who've done a great job.

Once again, a meeting is time to show appreciation, not to kill morale. Negative reinforcement is never the answer; only positive reinforcement gets the job done right!

Do yourself a favor -- at the very least, provide coffee, juice and something to eat -- it goes a long way toward building and maintaining morale.

A Few More Things

Meeting managers and business owners would be smarter if they took the lead from professional facilitators and built stronger relationships with activities, not conversations or lectures. Provide opportunities for self-discovery among your team. If your staff has weaknesses, try providing some additional training for the company as a whole group. Engaging in a shared activity creates a stronger bond between co-workers, and you'll be surprised how many people who think they know it all will have much to learn within the context of a group atmosphere.

Another way to make sure that meetings go as planned (or even better) is to prevent bad behavior by stressing clear objectives. Meetings often bring out the worst in people. And sales meetings tend to have a highly competitive edge. Some people will naturally take power and create authority, while others became passive and dependent.

The moment a power-struggle emerges, stop it right then and there and stick to the over-arching agenda. By maintaining awareness as to each attendee's personality type, you can ensure that no one gets lost in the shuffle.

In summation:

  1. Have a set but flexible agenda
  2. Creating a collaborative and positive environment
  3. Truly listen (and notice what people are not saying)
  4. Validate opinions
  5. Know your audience
  6. Remain unbiased
  7. Ask open-ended questions
  8. Allow for varied perspectives
  9. Promote personal responsibility
  10. Encourage solutions as opposed to recriminations
  11. Allow time for questions

All of the above are essential components for any type of valuable and successful meeting.

Do you have any thoughts or experiences that might add to the list of what it takes to create a great sales meeting? I'd love to hear from you.