I continue to be amazed at how leaders can call a meeting without really thinking through the meeting objectives, outcomes, and agenda. Your meetings are costing the company real dollars – although those costs are sunk costs in the form of payroll.
Even those meetings that charge real dollars to a cost center aren’t well thought out. These meetings are typically held “off-site” – where more attention is placed on the location, the food, and the cocktail party! Although major blocks of time are allocated for specific discussions, it still falls prey to the typical meeting pitfalls.
So how much are your meetings costing you? Check out this simple way to calculate the cost of an average meeting.
Let’s use an example of a typical leadership team off-site (I’ll use some numbers that make the math easy!):
Average Annual Salary
Length of Meeting (hours)
Cost of Meeting
Meeting Room Fee
# of People Staying at Hotel
Average Lodging Cost
Average Food Costs
The total cost of this one-day off-site is $12,917! Be sure to take into account the costs of the work that isn’t getting done since your people are away from the workplace, as well as looking at the historical trend for your meeting effectiveness. Are all your meetings top notch? No improvement needed?
Consider this: What is the cost to you and your company if this meeting bombs? Hiring a professional facilitator starts sounding like a good investment!
I was talking (virtually) to fellow blogger Vivek Singh about the plethora of blogs talking about presentation skills. He and I contribute to this specific space in the blogosphere. So does Andrew Dlugan who put together an amazing list of 118 fellow bloggers and Ian Griffin lists 43 bloggers plus 58 from his National Speakers Association buddies.
Alltop is another site which is supposed to help us. The problem (again) is the number of blogs it lists. More than 50. Wouldn’t it be spiffy if we had a link to a small list of 10 to 15 blogs? Blogs that are great? Blogs that do more than rehash stale content? Blogs that make you think?
What blogs do YOU follow regularly? Blogs that have helped you become a better presenter? Blogs that you absolutely love to read?
Share some names with me by leaving a comment here:
It’s been a few months since I handed over the gavel of the National Speakers Association. Oddly enough, most people expected me to go through PPD – post-presidential depression – a second cousin to post-partum depression. I keep waiting for the funk to set in, but I don’t think it’s going to happen. I’m just so excited about reconnecting with clients and re-engaging into the business!
Upon reflection, I thought I would share a few of my “insights” while serving as NSA President for the past year.
Never check email after dinner or 7pm, whichever comes first. Even the slightest nuance, idea, or member concern will rattle around in your head throughout the night.
It’s the People. I am often asked, “What’s the best part of being president? Hands down, it’s the people I have met. Learning from and leaning on people who have been there before you, who are going through the same trials and tribulations, and helping those who are traveling the road you just traveled.
Experience Matters. I was chatting with a speaker who said his area of expertise was on leadership. I innocently asked, “So what have you led?” and he told me it was none of my business. I then discovered he had never managed nor led any organization! Nothing beats experience when talking about your area of expertise. Some call it practice what you preach. I call it “eat your own dog food.” If you talk about it, you should not only practice those same principles on and off the platform, but it should be so ingrained in your MO, your DNA, or tattooed on your rear end like one of my clients who manages assets. You think I’m kidding, she actually got a tattoo on her ass…ets! And I went and got myself a heap of experience at NSA when it comes to strategic planning, facilitating our board meetings and building a team!
We are living in the Era of Engagement. People want to contribute – to provide input, to comment on what’s happening in their world. As professional speakers, the more we can ask for the audience’s contributions and comments up front, the better we can create an event that really connects with our audiences – and that they will want to keep the conversation flowing long after the presentation through blogs, listservs and discussion groups. Social networking is all about starting and keeping communities connected and the conversation flowing. We haven’t even begun to tap into the possibilities to connect with our clients, prospects, and with the entire world.
Keep It Small, Focused and F2F. So here’s the curious thing. When 9/11 hit in 2001 and then when the global economy crashed and burned in 2008, the prognosis for the meetings industry was well, not so great. Theoretically, all of the meetings were going to shift to the virtual world. But that has NOT the case. What has happened is a global trend toward fewer meetings, smaller meetings and with the content more tightly focused. The value on these face-to-face meetings has become much higher as people are investing their time specifically in order to meet face to face. Meetings are also becoming smaller in number of attendees physically present, with an extended reach beyond the four walls of the meeting. These hybrid meetings include streaming video and content discussions running at the same time as the actual event so people outside the room can participate in real time.
The world is indeed flat. We are living in a global economy. NSA-US is the world’s largest and oldest association dedicated to the art and business of professional speaking. It was a pleasure to travel around the nation and the world representing the NSA-US – and seeing just how much we have in common..
Leadership is not about immediate gratification. Especially with a volunteer association steeped in tradition, suffice it to say that you won’t see immediate results. It is the long term progress to our strategic plan that keeps us focused and motivated, providing even greater value to our members.
I am thrilled with the progress NSA continues to make on behalf of our members, and I will hold dear the memories, experiences, and relationships with my speaker buddies. And, I am equally excited to get back to “work”!
I thank you for the tremendous opportunity to serve you and represent you throughout the United States as and world. See you in Anaheim soon!
One of the most powerful ways you can connect with your audience and begin a conversation is by asking an engaging question – and then be silent. Wait for the answer. If you suffer the silence for one or two seconds, and look like you are expecting a response, someone will answer you!
Many speakers get nervous and answer their own question (otherwise known as a “rhetorical” question), which severely limits interaction. They might ask a series of rhetorical questions where they don’t get, nor were they expecting a response. Then, when they poll the audience (a show of hands, please), they wonder why people don’t raise their hands!
Most audiences get confused. Do you want an answer or not? If you want an answer, pause and listen for the answer. If you are going to poll the audience, ask the question and model the behavior you are looking for. For example, “Who here…” and while you are asking the question, raise your hand high in the air. This sends a clear signal that you are expecting those people who will say “yes” will raise their hand with you. Moreover, you are the one person in the room who can see all the results, and enquiring minds want to know. Share the results in the form of a statistic: “That looks like thirty folks, so that’s 10 percent of the group.” Or, if you want to make it a tad bit funny, be more precise, even though it is obviously a best guesstimate: “27 folks agree, and that is 13.3 percent of the group.”
Most companies provide breakfast when the meeting starts early. These days, most folks know to have healthy choices that feed into the energy and creativity of the team:
Low or non-fat yogurt
Scrambled or hard cooked eggs
Whole wheat or multi-grain mini bagels
Small bran, oatmeal, banana, pumpkin or multi-grain muffins
Whole grain toast or english muffins
Low fat granola
100% fruit or vegetable juices
Water — plain, sparkling or flavored with no added sugar
Coffee, tea (decaf options as well) – served with nonfat or 2% milk
So it was a surprise when Joe and I were working with a client and all we saw were “sticky buns” for breakfast. You know, the kind of gooey, doughy pastry that will put the entire room into a diabetic coma? Yeah, that kind.
During the debrief at the end of the day, the VP asked about the sticky buns and why there weren’t more healthy choices.
The meeting planner looked shocked and said, “But that’s what you asked for. You said you wanted sticky buns!”
“Sticky buns and all the other stuff we have for breakfast!” he countered.
And this happens all the time. Leaders can speak in shorthand. They are moving so fast, and expect the people around them to be able to understand them. Good news is that the more you hang around them, the more you understand the shorthand.
For this VP, “sticky buns” was the same as “breakfast items.” And the meeting planner took him literally. All we had were sticky buns, even though the organization typically had healthy choices.
So how do you combat the sticky bun effect? When the leader (in fact anyone on the team) makes a quick statement – that ‘s a cue that you might be facing a shorthand statement. Trust your gut here. You’ll know when something sounds “off” or just isn’t complete. Then ask a probing question. “Sticky buns….and what else?” Then confirm your understanding. “Yep, we’ll have some donuts and healthy choices as well.”
Sometimes, you have to slow down in order to catch up.
Most of us don’t live in Iowa, so we have to depend on third party information about the candidates to the US Presidency. CNN, Fox News, or this latest from Politico.com:
The contrast between Rick Perry Michelle Bachmann “had less to do with what they said than how they said it — and what they did before and after speaking.
Perry arrived early…. The Texas governor let a media throng grow and dissolve before working his way across the room to sit at table after table, shake hand after hand, pose for photographs and listen politely to a windy Abraham Lincoln impersonator, paying respect to a state that expects candidates, no matter their fame, to be accessible.
But Bachmann campaigned like a celebrity. And the event highlighted the brittle, presidential-style cocoon that has become her campaign’s signature: a routine of late entries, unexplained absences, quick exits, sharp-elbowed handlers with matching lapel pins, and pre-selected questioners…
‘She kept us waiting, she was not here mixing — then she was talking about what a great evening it was. How do you know? You just got here,’ said Karen Vanderkrol, of Hudson, Iowa, who said she agreed with the substance of Bachmann’s speech, but that one line in particular rang false: ‘I am a real person.’”
Regardless of your political leanings, it is in interesting commentary about the difference in their styles. And, in my mind, what you DO is just as important as what you say. In fact, I get really annoyed when they are not in alignment. Great leaders do what they say, and say what they do. They are the real thing, both “on” and “off” the job or the platform.
Have you ever had a huge goal that took you a fair amount of time to achieve? It’s superbly satisfying to check the box, mark it off and celebrate success! In the last week, I have had THREE major milestones converge all at the same time!
1) I relinquished the Presidential gavel of the National Speakers Association to now-President Laura Stack, CSP. Although I remain as Immediate Past President with Nominating Committee and CEO Evaluation duties, it’s quite satisfying to be “done” as President – and to have made a difference. And since I talk about teamwork, the lessons learned leading a 3,100 member organization is priceless! You can read my swan song given at our business meeting at our National Convention last week.
2) After a year of mucking about with an aged website, I have finally launched a brand-new upgraded website. Still working out a few kinks, but I’m thrilled with the clean lines, ability to navigate easily and my new line of business:
3) As a high stakes meeting facilitator and professional speaker, I have merged the two skills into a new category: “Mainstage Conversationalist” – when presenting to a large group becomes more of an interactive discussion. I’ve been mulling this around for a year or so (ever since I became NSA President), trying to figure out what to call it, and how to position it in the marketplace. It has gotten some recent traction from forward-thinking executives and meeting planners who want the audience to be part of a meaningful discussion.
So, this past week has been a watershed week.
It all started with a goal – and some major milestones to make it happen. Without a goal without a due date is just a dream. When you add a dose of action, you’ll get real results!
The premise goes something like this: In order to innovate, you must first “copy”. I don’t like “copy” as a stand alone word, but it really means to “become fluent in the language of our domain – and we do that through emulation.” In the copy phase, you spend hours mastering the basic principles of your craft – typically by “copying” others to build a foundation of knowledge and understanding. Then once you have solid grounding in the fundamentals, creativity kicks in. You can create variations – which Kirby calls “transformational.”
So where does the notion of “copying” fit in with professional speaking? I have been noodling about this for the last few days.
As a professional speaker and as President of the National Speakers Association (NSA), we really discourage others from “copying” stories, speech patterns, brands, ideas, etc. And yes, it does happen. According to the filmmaker, Kirby Ferguson, I guess it HAS to happen. Neophytes will unintentionally copy (literally) someone else’s speech. At the Global Speakers Summit in Holland this year, I cringed in my seat when one of the mainstage speakers started channeling Dr. Wayne Dyer – without attribution!
But a PROFESSIONAL speaker is NOT a neophyte nor a book reporter. A professional speaker has already gone through the painstaking process of “copying” the fundamentals of their topic and techniques – reading, discussing, speaking, testing the theories, principles, methodologies, mechanics and such. When your ideas become transformational and unique to you – that’s when you should you move into the professional speaker space.
But if I think about it, most professional speakers had to start somewhere. Where “copying” was encouraged, tutored, mentored and even taught – in an ethical way. I caught the speaking bug when I was certified by Franklin Quest (before it merged with Covey to become Franklin Covey) to teach a FABULOUS time management course. I was licensed to copy. I was then certified to teach Total Quality Management (TQM) Principles and Tools by Organizational Dynamics, Inc. (ODI) – which gave me even more confidence.
And then I fell into the rabbit hole. I had been asked to facilitate a process improvement team, putting the TQM principles into practice – and I made every mistake in the book! Vowing never to let that happen to me again, I read everything I could about team/meeting facilitation. And I mean everything. Good news is that this is back in 1990, and there really wasn’t that much on “facilitation” as it was a new field!
Transformation comes from a mix of fundamentals matched with a desperate need. And so I invented a Team Facilitation Skills workshop – it is uniquely my own and has evolved over time. It still serves as the basis of my facilitation training and practice. Where appropriate, I still attribute the original thoughts to the masters who have gone before me, and I have brought new insights into the mix.
Theoretically, at this point, my work is ripe for a “breakthrough” – a combination of diverse ideas. And so I spend my weekends reading and researching other ideas. You just never know when creativity and breakthroughs will occur!
But then comes the slammer. I don’t want to be spoiler, but the interesting thing about invention is that several people might be heading toward the same path you are on.
So where are you on your presentation journey? A neophyte working at mastering the fundamentals and finding your own voice? A transformer where you have created original material or a breakthrough artist? I’m reaching for the breakthroughs – where presentations are more of a conversation with the audience. What about you?
The National Speakers Association just published their first book, Paid to Speak. Covering every aspect of launching, building, and maintaining a successful speaking career, Paid to Speak is a must-read for professional speakers–whether keynote speaker, motivator, coach, trainer, facilitator, or consultant–as well as those aspiring to a speaking career.
Divided into four sections, the content corresponds with the four core competencies that the National Speakers Association (NSA) has identified for success as a professional speaker:
Eloquence: platform mechanics, presenting, and preparing
Enterprise: business management, sales, and marketing
Expertise: topic development, authorship, and product development
Ethics: professional awareness and professional development
Thirty-four NSA members who have built thriving speaking businesses weigh in with valuable insights and proven strategies on a gamut of topics, making Paid to Speak essential to any speaker’s list of reference materials. And, I am one of them! . I wrote Chapter 4: When Presenting Becomes Facilitating.
In this book, you will learn how to:
Create compelling presentations using stories of humor
Hone your presentation and facilitation skills
Convey a professional image through dress and body language
Market and sell yourself effectively
Develop an authentic and innovative brand
Partner with speakers bureaus
Spice up your writing and sell book proposals
Establish yourself as an expert in your niche
Leverage the virtual world
Adhere to an ethical code of behavior
And much, much more!
Read Paid to Speak from cover to cover, or open it to any chapter, for tried-and-true, hands-on information on taking your speaking career–and your bank account–to the next level.