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Deborah Jane Willimott

Deborah Jane Willimott

June 29, 2015

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How to Host a Meeting

“What makes meetings suck? The simple fact they’re meetings,” states U.K. communications queen Nicky Pattinson. “The ‘boardroom-speak,’ the fruit platter, the long table—they’re all subconscious cues for attendees to switch off because they’ve been bored by it all before.” Here’s how to get their attention.

Think of your attendees as party guests. Always give your gathering a personality. “An invite to the ‘Posh Pitch Summit’ instantly suggests this will be something other than the 50 other meetings they have booked in that week,” says Pattinson. Be enthusiastic; hint at surprises. “Everyone should be excited from the very first e-mail. Creating anticipation has everyone thinking about your meeting positively before they even arrive.”

Start with a bang. Internal meetings in particular can get negative in the first 10 minutes. “Send in your assistant to distract them with classy eats and the request to write down what they want to personally achieve today. Then get her to explain how they’ve been invited specifically as the only people for the job,” says Pattinson. “Stoke their pride, set the standard, get them focused, and that energy will rock that meeting for you.”

Be personal—but not cheesy. Personal bonding is the glue that holds meetings together, but done heavy-handedly = cringefest. So be human but avoid guts-spilling. “Disarming but casual comments (‘I was so excited/nervous, I was up till 4 a.m. prepping!’) make you instantly magnetic,” says Pattinson. Then ask a personal but work-based question: What’s been the most pivotal moment in your career? By uncovering what makes everyone tick, a nonintrusive yet personal connection is formed.

Anticipate the clichés. Meetings equal clichés, the merest whiff of which has attendees playing hunt-the-door. “Ditch typed agendas and use classy note cards, with celebrity quotes as summary heads. Need a whiteboard? Write ‘DON’T FEAR THE WHITEBOARD’ on it,” says Pattinson. “The novel and unexpected stir people’s attention, forcing everyone to fire on fresh cylinders.”