Feb 10, 2008

The band should play on

I watched a bit of the Grammies tonight, and saw when Kanye West received his award. His speech was too long, if the band-playing was any indication. Now, I don't know what the rules are, but I suppose nominees are given a list of guidelines for their acceptance speech. I know they do this for the Oscars. The actors are warned that should they speak too long, the band will start playing and they have to wrap it up.

At any rate, Kanye West gave his speech and the band started playing. West kept on speaking as if nothing was happening. At some point, he asked the the band to stop playing... and the band did. The audience applauded to show their approval.

The band should have kept on playing.

I have seen this too often in meetings. An agenda is set, time has been allocated to discuss specific issues. But some people in the meeting decide to take as much time as they want to state their views or opinions, and the meeting leader does not have the courage or the power to tell that person to shut up.

Net results? Meetings last longer than they should, some people are given more air time at the expense of others, and so on.

A successful meeting requires many of the same ingredients of a successful speech:
  • A roadmap: prepare an agenda containing a goal and the topics to cover.
  • An adequate amount of points to cover: too often, meetings or speeches try to cover too much ground. Having 14 bullet points is too much for a 60 minute meeting. More often than not, less is better.
  • Stick to the plan: if you realize that your speech is going to take more time than you expected, you need to cull on the fly. Same thing with a meeting. At some point, the moderator may need to say: "All right, we need to move on. We will schedule another meeting for this specific topic." Or: "We will not have enough time to cover everything we had planned to cover. I suggest that we complete the discussion on this important point and schedule a different meeting to address the rest of the points."
Doing so shows respect for everyone's time and will increase the effectiveness and usefulness of your meetings.

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