The importance of managing expectation Before and At the start of a big meeting

Have you ever had a bad meeting in which you play the leading role (the main presenter or someone who sets up the meeting) ?

There could be many reasons for it and for today, we would discuss about the importance of managing expectation.

If you don’t manage expectation carefully before or at the start of the meeting, you may loose the audience right at the start of the meeting and the rest of it could be really unpleasant for everyone. The audience would start to wonder why they are there in the first place and tune out. Some of them may leave half way through or start working on their laptop/mobile phone. All of your effort to build slide etc goes down the drain.

That is not the worst yet. There would be a lot of complaints after the meeting, either formal or informal.

The next time you want to call for meeting, people will find ways to get out of it.

Of course there is a direct economic loss as well since the bigger the meeting is, the more collective time is being lost and that amount of time may be worth a lot of money to your company, your clients or partner. You could just ask your finance team on the daily rate of those team members attending the meeting and you could see that it could easily cost more than one thousand dollars for a 1 hour meeting of 6-8 people.

1. Before the meeting: understand what your audience expects

Understand who is attending the meeting and what they want to get our of it.

This is much easier said than done. For example, recently I had a meeting with a senior client and it took me 3 hours to figure out what would be of interest to him.

Don’t be afraid to ask, either a few people who are attending or who is arranging the meeting. If you don’t know clearly, then send a quick email beforehand with what you plan to cover and ask the audience to reply if this is not what they are looking for.
Don’t be afraid to put a deadline when you need the Response.
The larger the meeting, the more unfamiliar you are from those attending, the more careful you need to be in making sure that everyone attending know what to expect. If your client/partner/boss sets up the meeting, ask for the list of attendance, their titles, key responsibilities to figure out what they want to get out of it.
I have seen so many examples that the team spent so much time to prepare for certain content, beautifying the slides, only to find out that they are not what the audience expects.

Actually prepare for the meeting

Yes, this may sound very basic but for internal meeting, it is very easy not to prepare anything and go straight to the meeting. If you want to go the extra miles, you could even try to visualise:

  • How you want everyone to sit during the meeting? It would amaze you how people sit physically during a meeting sets the tone for that meeting.
  • How you want to start the meeting, what you want to say, will you have the slides up?

2. How to start the meeting the right way?

Sharing context

Many times we go straight to the agenda of the meeting without explaining or ensuring that everyone (who is present) understand why they are there, what we are going to discuss and the expected outcomes.
It would even be good to ask one more time if the agenda and expected outcomes are what people expect?

Sometimes it’s helpful to explain the context of previous meeting if this meeting is a sequel.

Then what happens when you see that your team member starts the meeting without stating clearly the context to everyone?
Well stop the flow in a nice way and ask if it helps new members or the entire group if we talk about the context first. There would normally be at least 2-3 people who say yes, it would help them so then proceed to provide the context. Obviously if everyone says no, they are fully aware of the entire context, we could move on.

Time keeper

If you are not the time-keeper then appoint someone who would help you.

What happens when you are leading the meeting and you notice there are a few people attending who would not benefit from it?

At the beginning, I would say in a diplomatic way that what we are going to discuss may not be relevant to certain team members, they could choose to stay or get back 1 hour of their time. If you are earnest/candid in your explanation, people would take up your offer and either stay but know that they probably don’t get much out of it or leave the meeting.

If it’s an internal meeting for my own team, I may even “ask” in a nice way that those team members get back to other work. Some people have fear of missing out but it’s your job as a leader to ensure your team is functioning in an optimal way.

That’s all that I have for now, what do you think? Feel free to share below.


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