Your Presentation Should Come Last, Part 2

Yesterday, I argued that presentations don’t make our meetings effective. They might be helpful, but they should be the last thing we consider when preparing an important discussion. 

So, how should we prepare for a meeting if not by designing a presentation? It starts with understanding what it is we aim to achieve.

Define the Purpose of the Meeting 

Yes, we do have too many meetings, and we could have managed with way fewer. The problem is that many of us don’t typically consider the reason for having the meeting in the first place. Without articulating its purpose, no discussion could be value-oriented. 

Like any other professional activity, a meeting must be associated with a Mission — an overarching goal beyond what you will achieve in this concrete discussion. If, for example, the meeting is part of a project, your Mission could be “to meet the project’s targets.” This by itself is a powerful statement because if you (and your associates) are not convinced the meeting can serve this predefined Mission, you should probably avoid having it. 

But identifying the predefined Mission is not enough. Like other tasks, your meeting should have a desired outcome that can help you promote the Mission. I call this outcome the Initiative. A good Initiative must be action-oriented, and we must be convinced that it can take us one step closer to the Mission. To have an effective meeting, we must define the Initiative in advance and make sure everyone is aligned with it. 

Finally, it is essential to identify the right people to have the discussion with: your Associates. Similarly to defining the Initiative, we should pick only the people who can help us promote the action we aim for. 

Without thinking about these three components — the Mission, the Initiative, and our Associates — no meeting will be effective. When combined, they form the iAIM statement: 

I and my Associates need to Initiative to Mission

For example, in managing a project, your iAIM statement could be: I and the project leads need to mitigate the risks on the critical path to meet the project’s targets.

Can you see how this statement can focus the discussion? Going into a meeting with this iAIM statement defined and known to all Associates sets the meeting’s goal, tone, and content. This is the first step to having an effective discussion, and the best place to make this alignment is in the title of the meeting. 

It’s a huge step forward, and it doesn’t involve even a single PowerPoint slide. 

To be continued tomorrow.

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