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August 5, 2014 | 4 minutes

Bye Bye

Conference Room Meeting

Photo by Kevin Dooley (Flickr)

By Nathan Strum

PHOTO: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pagedooley/7007372665 Photo by Kevin Dooley (Flickr)

When you have been around entrepreneurs and business professionals for as long as I have, you get to see a lot of different meeting techniques. It is being completely honest to say that business meetings, for the most part, are boring tests of endurance. However, meetings are also essential to the success of any idea. I have noticed that the entrepreneurs who are able to make meetings interesting and possibly even exciting are the ones who seem to find the most success.

Start With an Attention-Grabber

One of the most innovative meeting ideas I ever witnessed firsthand was an associate who would walk to the front of the room to start a meeting, point at a person at random, and yell, “I cannot stand you!” very loudly. Aside from one confused person, there would be a room full of people who would gasp and then go completely quiet. Then my associate would say, “That is what a customer once told me when he brought in a defective product that he could not get supported.”

Not only did this idea never fail to gain attention, but it also never failed in getting the room laughing. The other effect was that for the rest of the meeting, the attendees were on the edge of their seats waiting to see what he would say next. The rest of his presentation was pretty standard stuff, but the audience never missed a word of it.

Try Alternatives to PowerPoint

In my earlier years in business, I worked with a sales manager who loved computer animation. He got to be so good at it that he started to incorporate it into his presentations. Instead of boring PowerPoint slides, he would have a little duck character walk the audience through each slide of his presentation. That little duck became legendary in our company and our industry, and it never failed in keeping his audiences’ attention.

The duck did much of the selling because the audience would rather listen to the cartoon character than to the sales professional. If you want to make an impact at a meeting, then get creative and use something other than PowerPoint presentations.

Loosen Up the Meeting Language

One of the most important things to remember about a meeting is that it is not just what information you are presenting; it is also how you are presenting it. We had one client who would make his point using excepts from Mel Gibson movies in the script of his presentation. If you are a Monty Python fan, then try incorporating some of their famous jokes into your presentation. This is more than just telling a few jokes to get people’s attention. This is loosening up the language of your meeting completely to make it accessible to everyone in the room. As long as you stay on subject and do not offend anyone, then people will listen to what you have to say if you use a creative way to say it.

Play a Character For a Little While

In my decade in business, I have seen some pretty innovative ways of presenting business information. I watched as one vendor started a meeting playing the role of the teacher from Pink Floyd’s “The Wall,” and I was completely entertained by one retirement account adviser who suddenly sat down and did a portion of his presentation as Tom Brokaw.

The key is to not overdo the character element and, as always, make sure it is relevant to the topic. Maybe you could bring a fake microphone and a microphone stand and act the part of a standup comedian for part of your presentation. Perhaps presenting the benefits of your product as a game show host would be an effective way to get people’s attention. Try different characters to see what works and you will eventually find something that people enjoy.

A business meeting, by its nature, is boring. Even as a dedicated business professional, I am willing to admit that I get bored at meetings. But when the meeting host tries something innovative to keep my attention, I always retain that meeting’s information much better.

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