August 22, 2007

Meetings and Presentations

You are a diverse audience.

Some of you manage catalog circulation. Some of you manage e-mail campaigns.

Some of you manage the craft known as web analytics, or work in the parallel world of business intelligence, using SAS to analyze customer behavior.

Some of you manage online marketing programs. Some of you manage paid and natural search.

Some of you are executives at direct-to-consumer and multichannel organizations.

All of you attend meetings, where you are required to present findings, hoping to influence decision makers.

If you are an Analyst or Manager, you might get one opportunity each year to present to Sr. Management.

If you are a Director, you might get one opportunity each week to present to Sr. Management.

If you are a Vice President or CEO, you might hear eight presentations per day!

Today, I sat in a meeting where an Analyst was presenting to a diverse audience, including an Executive. The Analyst was four months into his job, and dearly wanted to impress the audience.

So much so, that he frequently took the discussion off-topic. He brought up numerous issues that had little to do with the stated agenda. The Executive, a consensus-builder (in my opinion), allowed him to divert the audience to other topics.

We didn't cover every item on the agenda.

We did cover a half-dozen topics not on the agenda.

The meeting went eight minutes longer than scheduled.

I've been the Analyst who has one shot a year to impress somebody. I've been the Executive who had to keep the room focused on the stated topic. I've failed at both roles.

Both roles are absolutely critical. A crisp, concise, confident presentation from an Analyst-level individual, one that directly benefits the Executive, pays big dividends.

Conversely, the Analyst is forming an opinion of the Executive based on this one interaction. The Executive has a responsibility to run an efficient, actionable meeting.

If you count the number of meetings you've been in where both sides performed well, you'll know how hard it is to have a great meeting.

What examples can you share where you've seen great presentations from Analyst-level staff? Are there Executives who are particularly good at leading meetings? In your opinion, what makes for a good meeting, and what presentation style works best?

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