Gerry Lewis shows how to shineGerry Lewis wants to help you stand out.

“Everyone can be a better communicator if we just take it up a notch,” the author of SHINE: Stand Out. Get Noticed. Be Brilliant told a recent gathering of IABC Golden Horseshoe members and friends.

Start by handling meetings like a pro, by conquering the five sins of meetings:

1.  Wastefulness

We’re often guilty of meeting for no real reason, other than ritual. If you’re in charge of the meeting, ask if it is really necessary. Do you need a decision? Want to involve people in brainstorming? Want to show progress or get a status update? Do you need to communicate something, and is a meeting better than email? If the meeting IS necessary, avoid wasting time by setting and keeping to a time limit and making sure people leave the meeting knowing what action is needed next.

2.  Disorderly conduct

Did a meeting seem to go nowhere? Did a discussion go off the rails? Did you have too many people in the room? Gerry shared his “mental roadmap” to guide meetings, which he dubbed MAP IT:

  • Members: Do you have the right people there, including decision makers if needed? Unless you’re brainstorming — when the more people are involved, the merrier — limit the number of people invited.
  • Action items: These are critical to show progress. Be sure everyone leaves the meeting knowing who is doing what.
  • Priorities: Have an agenda, with both “must-do” items (share these up front) and “nice-to-do” items. This helps you limit discussions that won’t help meet your objectives. If someone tries to hijack your meeting, acknowledge the topic and suggest it go on the agenda for the next meeting.
  • Identify leaders: “Share the chair”(letting others run parts of the meeting) to encourage participation.
  • Timing: Start the meeting on time and end early. Everyone will thank you for it.

3.  Disengagement

Are people in your meetings paying attention, or are their heads down while they check their BlackBerrys and iPhones? Set expectations, such as asking people to bring “three ideas about X” to the meeting. Engage people with play (squeeze balls, Silly Putty, Play-Doh, crayons, smelly markers) and food (fun snacks like popcorn and licorice). Get people to move (ask them to use sticky notes or dots to flag important topics on a flipchart). Boost energy with music. At the end, ask:”How does everyone feel about what we’ve talked about?” (not “Do you have any questions?”).

4.  Lateness

Respect people’s time. Send a reminder email with the agenda and expectations. Keep pre-reading short. Start on time. If someone arrives late, don’t waste time by repeating what you’ve just gone over. Keep to your agenda. End 10 minutes early.

5.  Passiveness

What about those who leave a meeting and don’t do anything afterwards? Recap the action items at the end of the meeting, and who is responsible for completing them. Circulate minutes of the meeting, with the action items at the top so they won’t be missed.

Gerry’s book has plenty of other suggestions to help you Shine. Learn more on Gerry’s website, where you can download an excerpt and buy the book.

Photo: Gerry Lewis tells IABC Golden Horseshoe members and friends the best times for a meeting are mid-morning on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. Credit: Krista Murray.