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Brian answers questions about meeting preparation and shares some public speaking advice for introverted individuals.

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Transcript from the "Meetings Q&A" Lesson

>> I think my overarching point here is have a point, keep people on task, and try and get out of it what you want, right? However you choose to approach that, I give you some of my tips and I'm definitely not every PM. I'm Brian Holt and I run my meetings a certain way.

[00:00:16] You're gonna have to find the way that works for you. But I will say I've seen some very introverted people, some very meek and quiet people run awesome meetings, and I'm not the most extroverted person either. So don't use that as an excuse to not own your meetings.

[00:00:37] It takes effort, it's hard, it's straining, but it is work and those work is all of those things. So if you have more difficulties like that, there's people that do executive presence training, both online or coaches. Strongly suggest that if that's something that feels really difficult to you.

[00:01:00] They sent us through one through my MBA program. She was awesome. I think she did legal at Google and she had tons of useful tips for us. So executive presence is the thing that you wanna google for help with those sorts of things. Yeah.
>> Quick, I would pile on in my experience.

[00:01:23] I'm very much an introverted individual. It is very draining for me to drive these kinds of meetings. What I have found to be very helpful is, you mentioned in your style as well, injecting a bit of humor, throw a Spongebob meme.
>> [LAUGH]
>> One of my last meetings a couple months ago, I asked the attendees, the punchline that I wanted to get out of them was, what hurts right now?

[00:01:50] And I used a meme of a soccer player getting kicked between the legs by another soccer player, because I wanted to spur that conversation, I wanted to break that ice, I wanted it to be an open and lively conversation. I found humor to be a great tool for helping break down what often feels to me very stuffy corporate kind of communication norms.

>> Absolutely, it can put people at ease, it can open up conversations, it can get people on more of a peer-to-peer level rather than at a hierarchy. Have you ever heard of the HiPPO? The highest paid person's opinion, yeah, is usually the thing that wins. I hate those kind of meetings.

[00:02:39] If we're gonna go with the HiPPO opinion, just don't invite me to a meeting, just do it. Just send me an email saying this is what we're doing, right? And so humor can be a good way for getting kind of people on that kind of more equal playing.

[00:02:53] The thing you wanna be cautious of is sometimes you can distract from your message, right? And so I'm just gonna, yes, seek balance in those kind of things. And as you can see here, a lot of my presentations revolve around humor as well, so it's not something I always get right either.

>> I think, after all this, I feel confident, at least, I can draw on my experience as a teacher and lecturer. And having a reputation for delivering information in a consistently understandable way, in a well-defined time, is a great way to get people to show up to your next meeting.

[00:03:33] You are your own product in many ways, and some people can get away with being humorous. Some people, the same joke is gonna fall flat, but people are really showing up for you and for how you work. And the audience will give you a lot of room, at least in my experience, if you are meeting the basic benchmarks.

[00:03:56] People want their time not wasted, if you can do that. And a lot of that is preparation, knowing who your audience is going to be. Things like that, it was very effective in my career, and I agree, there's a need for you to be there in a genuine way, and after that, the conversations get a lot easier.

>> Yeah, totally agree, well said. It's probably something that I am skimming over here. And it probably bears mentioning, I hadn't really thought about too much in context of presenting this, is like, I've done so much public speaking that getting in front of a lot of people just is not something that is concerning to me anymore.

[00:04:35] It used to be, right? Like I said, you can go watch my first talk on YouTube at Fluent Conf 2013 or something like that. I think I talked about the podcast, The Frontend Masters podcast, that is. I am literally shaking in my first public speaking appearance. And now I've done it so many times that you can put me in front of 1,000 people right now.

[00:04:56] In fact, I don't know how many people are watching right now, but it might be that much. Does not bother me. And I understand that that's fairly unique. A lot of people don't have that sort of experience to draw upon. So something to keep in mind, if you are in that boat where getting in front of people is hard for you, most people are generally on your side.

[00:05:12] Most people generally want you to do well and they generally want you to deliver your message in whatever way you're choosing to do so, and they are rooting for you in that capacity. The rest of those people don't care, [LAUGH] right, and they're just generally not thinking about it.

[00:05:31] And they've been to so many meetings that if your meeting doesn't go the way that you planned, probably not gonna think about it after that. And then the few people at the end that are malicious and are trying to mess with you, F them, right? Who cares about people like that, right?.

[00:05:46] And so kinda having that framing for me helped kind of eliminate a lot of that public speaking pressure that I was putting on myself. I was like, you know what, I'm trying to speak to the people that are trying to engage with me, that helped a lot. And then the other thing I'll say here is everything that I talked about here, agendas, coming up with a decision made, timeboxing, that sort of preparation will give you confidence, right?

[00:06:10] And so if you are going into these kinds of meetings feeling uneasy or scared about it, having a kind of a script of how that meeting is supposed to go. Even if you go off the trail there, having all that preparation and feeling like you have done 100% of the prep to talk about 5% of it, it's gonna launch you from a place of power, which will give you confidence.

[00:06:32] And I'll see the last thing in here, and I probably should have put this in here as well, having a plant helps as well. Going in there with a coworker and saying, hey, here's all the stuff I wanna talk about, can you answer these questions? Can you make these comments?

[00:06:46] Can you kind of help the meeting along? Can you help me silence people that are derailing us? That meeting where I was talking about where I go monthly for that big meeting, I always had at least a plant from multiple different teams and usually change two at once.

[00:06:59] An easy way to get a plant in your meetings is to have someone. Talk to them beforehand, show them the slide deck, like, okay, I need somebody to take notes, right? Cuz you generally don't wanna be the note taker when you're the one presenting. That's a really good way, is like, hey, person taking notes, can you recap of what just happened there or something that?

[00:07:21] And then you can kind of prompt them to help you as well. So yeah, hopefully that helps. And it's just practice at the end of the day. After you start doing it to a lot of people enough, you eventually just get confident with it. The last thing I was gonna say is, especially when they're important meetings, talking to all of the stakeholders beforehand and getting like, hey, we're gonna talk about this, what do you think about it?

[00:07:51] And getting their opinions before you get in that room will give you a lot of confidence, because then there's no surprises. That'll help as well. It also will help you drive your agenda. Again, talking about those big meetings that I used to go to, I knew every person's opinion before I got in that room, except sometimes the vice president because I couldn't get to him cuz he was busy, right?

[00:08:12] Everybody else's opinion, I knew exactly what they were gonna say when we went in there.