Let’s face it. Sometimes, you might be leading a meeting and realize that things aren’t going your way. Attendees are not engaged, they’re more interested in their phones than what’s going on in the room, miscommunications are firing, and you’re left standing in front of a few unhappy people.
Being that it’s baseball season, and I’m a huge fan of the San Francisco Giants (go Bumgarner!), a sports psychology term came to mind: a shift in momentum. It happens when a series of points are lost or won during a game, and those actions change the momentum. Athletes, coaches, and commentators usually report when there is a positive change in momentum and the crowd goes wild! In fact, these positive energy shifts have been responsible for famous comebacks in sports games.
A shift in positive momentum can be the difference between losing or winning a game, or a meeting. If the meeting is going in the opposite direction of where you would like it to go, there are three things you can do to turn it around quickly. Here’s how you can create positive momentum to own a meeting and switch its momentum in your favor:
1. Choose a Captain
Often, a meeting’s overall atmosphere can be driven by an individual or a few key players. Usually, it’s the people who have the most “skin in the game” or have a lot lose if the deal or meeting goes south. They could feel misaligned with the meeting’s objectives and feel anxious because of this. Identify the person who is driving the meeting south (possibly causing bad vibes), and then work to turn them and the meeting around.
At Marketo, we sometimes meet with individuals who feel anxious about adopting marketing automation, and as a result, the meeting can spiral downwards fast. We look at this as a real challenge to transform them from someone who feels misaligned into a brand ambassador.
To do this, we start by determining who the person is and their pain points. These questions help guide this process:
- What is causing them the most anxiety?
- What are their goals?
- What are their expectations from your product or service?
- What are their expectations about the outcome of the meeting?
The answers to these questions can give you vital clues as to why you’re losing points and help you assist the person to participate more actively. By encouraging them to voice their concerns and expectations, you can better understand where they want to go and help them get there faster.
2. Change It Up
A game, or meeting, can make it into the hall of fame or be a snoozefest. You want every meeting to be the best it can—whether it’s with colleagues, prospects, or customers. That’s why it’s important to come to every meeting with your A-game, ready to demonstrate not only a new learning but something that could positively change the way the team or company does business. To make sure you’re bringing your A-game, it’s important that you’re prepared to change things on the fly.
Just like how coaches have different levels of exercises for varying levels of athletes, you can do the same by hosting meetings that considers every person in the room’s expertise. To do this, use two or three different approaches for all levels of expertise. For example, you can cover the essential points of your agenda, but also have alternative recommendations or topics in your back pocket, ready to go in case the meeting shifts directions. Not only does this demonstrate your expertise in a specific area, but it demonstrates your flexibility and preparedness. Just like going into extra innings, you need to be ready to go the distance to win the meeting over, and that almost always means being prepared and adaptable.
Every momentum shift requires equal parts of teamwork and effort to positively switch momentum. Work with your colleagues to come up with the best plays and desired outcomes for a meeting to make a lasting impression and positive change in momentum. Most professional teams don’t just walk onto the field without first sitting together and brainstorming possibilities and outcomes. How can you do this with your team?
First, come up with a new play for the resolution of the meeting, which should answer the questions: what you would like to build, demonstrate, or test with the team? To develop the right plays, you need to understand the ultimate goal of the meeting. Then, demonstrate the process of how to find the solution. Sometimes, bringing a new plan to fruition can be tricky, but breaking it down into buildable pieces can help the meeting run more smoothly.
If there is an element that needs input and brainstorming with the team, then build it with the team. Get into one room with a whiteboard and formulate a resolution. Then, optimize it in real-time with everyone’s input and continue to gather feedback as you go.
It’s also critical to consider how you will bring your meeting attendees/participants along with you as you cover your agenda. If you’ve ever participated in team sports you’ve probably done the running drill “snake” where you run in a line and then the front switches with the back. Not only is it a great sprint /endurance drill, it emphasizes a concept that’s also important for meetings. Like your snake is only as fast as the slowest runner, your meeting is only as good as your weakest link—so be prepared to solicit input from everyone in the room and recap your key takeaways so everyone leaving the room is prepared to be effective and actionable.
At the end of the meeting, you can give high fives all around but don’t forget to look back at what went well and where you could improve. While you could come to the table with what’s expected, to hit a home run, you need to look back at what worked and what didn’t and then think bigger.
Great teams, like great meetings, are productive, and feedback is an important part of their success. As marketers or salespeople, it’s almost a requirement to lead meetings and it’s more than a probability that it won’t always go in your favor. To swing momentum positively, choose a captain, change things up, and work with your team. And remember—consistent home runs are only possible with tons of practice, so use these tips to hit it out of the park every time!
What other tips do you have for owning a meeting? I’d love to hear them in the comments!