EYN#020 - Mastering Expert-Led Meetings: How To Host Effective Meetings as "The Expert"Jan 30, 2024
Often Technical folk attend meetings as "The Expert", "The Subject Matter Expert", "The Person Who Knows Stuff". I've attended loads of meetings as the SME.
But I also wanted to be "The Person Who Got Stuff Done", "The Person Who Drove Action".
Each of those sessions sat somewhere between a broadcast and an informal coffee chat. The broadcast is more suited to conferences or bigger audiences. The informal coffee chat is very intimate and flexible. That bit in the middle is tough, so we're going to focus there today.
You need to listen, you need to deliver value and you want to drive change. So here's how I think about it.
The Prep Work
Before you even get in the meeting session, you want to do some prep. You need to turn up ready to be successful. The most important questions to answer before you arrive are:
- Who's in the audience? - Know who will be there and start to be curious about what’s important to them.
- What do the stakeholders want to achieve? - Either through chatting to the meeting organisers, or through research, you need to understand what you're stakeholders want to achieve.
- What do you want achieve? - Be clear in your mind what you want to achieve. If you don't know what you want to achieve you'll never hit it.
Create A High Level Structure For The Session
After the prep work, you need to get the right balance of structure and flexibility for the session. Too much structure and the meeting can feel constrained and rigid. Too loose and no-one hits their objectives - it's just a nice chat. This flow suits most situations:
- Intro - Understand who's in the room and build your credibility.
- Seek To Understand - Understand the problem. Get to know the pain your stakeholders are feeling and understand what they want to achieve.
- Add Value - You can't just ask questions and listen. You're the SME, you need to bring some value.
- Next Steps - We need to drive action and build momentum for change.
Let's dig into each of those.
Understand who is in the room. Are the people in the room the people that you thought would be? Understanding who they are, and knowing their job roles can help you calibrate what level you are pitching content at.
Build a little credibility. Introduce yourself briefly, with information on why people should listen to your opinion.
Seek To Understand
Seek First To Understand Then To Be Understood. Also known as the discovery or diagnostic phase. In order to be the expert, you need to understand the problem. You can't offer a solution if you don't know what the challenge is. Ask questions like:
- What are your problems?
- What is your pain?
- Why is this a problem right now?
- Where are you trying to get to?
- What's your goal?
- What does success look like for you?
And actually listen to the responses. Actively listen. Jot down a few notes. Ask clarifying questions. Be attentive. Repeat back a summary of what you've heard.
Use this phase to figure out what knowledge, value and solution you want to share later on in the session. It needs to be tailored to what you've just heard.
Now it's time to offer value. That could be a product you offer, a way to resolve the problem or simply suggestions of a way forward. This needs to be based on what you've just heard.
Deliver compelling content. Average is not good enough. How? Well deliver with clarity, simplicity and brevity. Use chunks of re-usable micro content that you can arrange together to address the audience's needs.
Use compelling anecdotes and stories, use visual aids that make the complex simple and deliver demo's that are relevant and inspirational. My Technical Storytelling Course goes through this in real depth.
Give space for the audience to ask questions as you deliver and ensure there is time at the end for questions.
Now it's time to drive the change. The meeting isn't the end, we need to keep the momentum and energy. Make the next steps easy and frictionless. Book follow up sessions there and then in the diary. Share links to more information. Keep the momentum going.
Final tip. Keep an eye on the time. If you spend the whole time understanding the problem, you'll deliver no value. If you spend too long in the Add Value stage, you won't have time to agree the Next Steps. Be chief time keeper and keep the session on track.
Hope this helps.
Whenever you're ready, there are 3 ways I can help you:
- Podcast: The latest episode is "Speaking With Clarity" with Lidia Vasileva. Check it out on the Elevated You website or on Apple, Spotify and Google Podcasts.
- Technical Storytelling Essentials: Accelerate your career, increase your impact and influence people. Affordably priced, world-class course digital course for individuals.
- Technical Storytelling for Organisations: Programs designed to increase the impact of your team. Inspire, develop and motivate your team to influence key stakeholders and generate action with your customers.