The Most Common Public Speaking: The Meeting
When we think of public speaking, we generally imagine an individual (ourselves?) standing in front of a group of people, informing or entertaining them with our words. But a much more common form of public speaking comes in the form of meetings. I am a government worker. I don’t know about the rest of the people, but government workers meet. . . and meet . . . and meet. Each morning when I get to work, I look to see if I have enough breaks between meetings during the day to use the restroom or eat lunch. I often think that we have meetings just to create work that we don’t have time to do because we are always in meetings. Occasionally one of these meetings is productive, but for the most part, it’s questionable. Often I find we are meeting just to say we met.
Purposes for Meeting
Over the decades, I’ve seen the prevalent management styles transition from authoritative to participative. We’ve moved away from a headman at the top of a hierarchal organization making all the decisions. These days many management decisions are made by committee, collaboration, and consensus. To make this evolving management style work, information and opinions must be shared. Hence, the meeting has evolved.
Keeping the idea of collaboration and consensus in mind, there are four prevalent purposes of meetings in the workplace. Most meetings have a blending of the four, but generally, there is a dominant purpose:
- Give Info
- Solve Problems
Meeting to Give Info
Remember that the sharing of information is fundamental in current day organizational philosophies. With this in mind, giving info may be a common thread through all meetings. But there are two very specific meetings where this is the primary stated purpose: Staff Meeting and Training.
- Staff meetings, or sometimes called team meetings, are generally characterized by a group of peers (the team) coming together so the team lead can pass information. In a less personable organization, this information could easily be passed through an interoffice memo, but the cross flow of opinions and ideas makes the staff meeting a more productive venue.
- Training sessions, whether in lecture or participative form, are essential in the workplace. Detailed or individualized task instruction may be best-accomplished one-on-one. But when several in the work area require the same training, efficiency necessitates group training sessions. Modern presentation materials, such as projecting instructions on a screen or setting up computer labs where all attendees can test skills as they go, enhance the efficiency of training sessions.
Meeting to Solve Problems
When there is a problem, group involvement can stimulate ideas for solutions. There are volumes of books and courses at all levels of complexity on problem-solving techniques or problem-solving models. Many of the classic problem-solving techniques, such as brainstorming, demands group participation. Even the very first step in any problem-solving model, defining the problem, becomes more on point in a small group setting.
Meeting to Plan
Planning is necessary to implement new ideas and initiatives. All the problem-solving meetings in the world would be in vain if there are no plans to implement the solutions. Meetings might also be organized to plan future organizational goals or to set project milestones. If all planning is accomplished by one or a few select individuals, the organization might be sliding back toward the authoritarian management. But if planning is done by the group, buy-in can be achieved and the possibility of the plan’s success increases geometrically.
Meeting to Motivate
It seems that human nature says we should be reluctant to change. In the workplace, that seems especially true. But whether evolutionary or revolutionary, change is a natural cycle in organizations. To affect change, it is often necessary to motivate those involved. Change in leadership requires the team to change their loyalty. To have a change in procedures requires the team to change certain habits. Change in the environment requires the team to change their comfort zones. Meetings may help to explain to the group why change is necessary and how it will benefit the team as a whole.
Plan your Meeting with Purpose
With these purposes in mind, step back and think about the meetings you have on your calendar today. Do they fit into one of these four purposes? Do you even know why you are attending? If you see no other purpose than the fact that you are on the list of invitees, you may want to look for a reason NOT to attend.
And if you are the one planning the meeting, make sure the reason is clear to those expected to attend. Even regular recurring meetings should be examined; it doesn’t hurt to skip one or two if the only reason to meet is that the calendar says so. Meetings with a purpose can increase productivity in the work environment, but meetings with unclear purposes rob the organization of productive hours.
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