10 tips for holding successful meetings

In this challenging market, more dealerships are putting a stronger emphasis on in-dealership meetings and training.

“We are looking at each deal and meeting and analyzing it as if it were the only deal we have,” said Gary Ingman of Florida’s Ingman Marine. “We are learning from each one.”

Here are 10 guidelines to help make your in-dealership meeting and training efforts more productive.

1. Never criticize an individual publicly — If you do, they are more likely to walk away thinking “The boss is a jerk,” instead of reflecting on their behavior and looking at ways to improve it. Pointing out bad behavior, or poor results, and coaching to improve it, should always be done in private. This way the only thing in question is the person’s behavior, not their relationship with the boss.

2. Involve as many team members as possible — It helps to make everyone feel in the loop and adds fresh perspective. The more people who participate, the more these people will hold each other accountable after the meeting. Some stores have found it works best to split the team into two groups so that one can meet while the other is running the business. Others prefer to hold the meeting after hours or during lunch.

3. Plan what you want to accomplish — Fill in the end of this sentence: “At the end of this meeting, the participants will be able to __________.” It might be that you are trying to get them to understand something, learn something or share solutions. Having that goal clearly set helps keep the meeting focused.

4. Set a time frame — A meeting’s effectiveness does not increase the more minutes you devote to it. It is often better to do shorter subject-targeted meetings of a half hour or less. This helps to get the discussion on positive solutions instead of turning it into a free-for-all of vented frustrations.

5. Take charge — The person running the meeting is responsible for keeping the time, content and participation rolling. This can cause butterflies in the best of speakers. The key is to get the butterflies to fly in formation! Use that energy to energize the presentation. If you have ever watched a speaker who was really nervous you know there is nothing more uncomfortable for an audience … sometimes it helps to imagine before you start the meeting that the audience is feeling that way and your job is to get up there, take control, and make them feel comfortable: “Poor audience, it’s going to be great. I’m in charge so you can relax!”

6. Focus on what the audience is thinking — When presenters are speaking at the highest level, a big chunk of their brains are focused on their audience and what they are thinking and feeling – just speak right to that. Public speaking is really a mind game with yourself. It can be good fun if you look at it that way.

7. Use a participant guide — Even if it is just one page that you take two minutes to prepare, it helps keep the meeting on task and accelerates the learning. It should include the meeting goal (covered in the third guideline) along with spaces to take notes. If people write something down, they are so much more likely to remember it and use it. A participant guide helps the presenter feel prepared and keeps the participants clear on why they are there.

8. Use visuals when possible — Keep an eye out for a topical cartoon, motivational video, news story, or examples that you admired from another business or training program to help support your meeting objective. Good visuals help to make your meetings engaging, and examples always help to clarify goals. An excellent source of free-to-view motivational videos can be found at www.simpletruths.com.

9. Ask open-ended questions — People do not tend to argue with themselves. Rather than tell, it is almost always better to ask a group a question phrased in such a way that they will tell you exactly what you were tempted to say yourself. This is known as facilitation, but it can also be known as the fine art of manipulation. In either case, it works far better than arguing or pulling teeth with your team.

10. End on a good note — While it is important to keep the meeting as productive and positive as possible, you are bound to have some tense moments. No matter how heated it gets, always close in an encouraging way. This can be done by asking everyone to share one thing they are going to work on as a result of the meeting or by thanking everyone for their participation, truthful perspective and ideas. If you let them know you care and make them feel valued, it can be a great way to close the meeting and keep people looking forward to the next one.

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