How to Lead a (Productive) Meeting, Part Three

by Nils Smith, Chief Strategist Social Media+Innovation

If the last few months have taught us anything, it’s that if we’re honest, many of our past meetings could have been emails!

I recently had the honor of flipping the script on Trent Dunham and interviewing him on his own Dunham Podcast. I believe his insight on how to lead a meeting efficiently and effectively will be of great value to you.

Here is the final part of our conversation…

Nils: When it comes to leading a meeting, how would you encourage someone lacking confidence?

Trent: Do not put undue pressure on yourself. It isn’t necessary or realistic. People don’t expect you to know everything. They’re asking you for your experience and advice based on the things that you’re seeing or what you know.

If you stay in that lane, naturally your confidence will build over time. It’s a learned skill. In fact, I love meeting with people who can sniff out a fake. It forces me to be on point. It forces me to be prepared. And I appreciate that, actually, because we can get to business more rapidly.

One of the things I am really disciplined in is using “we” language… from day one. I don’t use “you” or “I” language in any context, with a client especially, because I believe we’ve been called to help them in their mission. While it may be subconscious, it communicates to the person that you actually care about what they are dealing with.

And then finally, if I can say one other thing, it is own your mistakes.

Own up to it when you give advice that you have to refine later. Because we’re in an ever-moving environment, the advice you gave two years ago may change later since technology has changed or the way donors react has changed.

Sometimes you need to say, “Hey, look, we tried this thing and it didn’t work. But we’re going to try this now, based on this behavior or data…” Just be real.

Nils: In your meetings, I’m assuming you encounter some who are disengaged or just quiet by nature, and others who are what we like to call “over-talkers.” How do you pull people in effectively, and how do you quiet others down?

Trent: It’s delicate.

I was recently talking to a leader of an organization. We were pre-gaming before we met with his team. He said, “When we go into the room, this guy is going to talk all the time, and this guy has really valuable information but he just never speaks up.” I knew I would need to gently call him out.

So I said things like, “What do you think about this particular point?” Or, “What are you seeing in your context?”

Throughout every meeting, I’m thinking about our final destination. This ministry needs more donors. Or this one needs a better conversion rate.  Another may need a better product. My job in those meetings is to help the entire team come to the same conclusion. I’m not trying to manufacture something but I want us to have a conversation. Then ultimately, the destination is the ministry’s decision.

Nils: Any final thoughts when it comes to effectively leading meetings?

Trent: First, don’t meet just to meet.

I think people get frustrated by having their time wasted, so if you’re wasting their time or covering things that are not pertinent to them, they are losing trust in you. You are losing value in that relationship.

Secondly, if you are leading a meeting, lead with purpose. Lead with the end in mind. Know how to navigate the room to get to that end.

I’ve been in four or five rooms this week with different ministries and every one of them is different. Know where you’re headed so the meeting doesn’t devolve into some kind of unproductive banter. Get to a point, and have tangible action items to leave them with.

If you want to learn more about effectively leading a meeting, check out more of this conversation between Nils and Trent on The Dunham Podcast episode “How to Lead a (Productive) Meeting“.


More Insights from Dunham+Company: “Understanding the Donor Hierarchy

Ready to take the next step? Dunham+Company is here to help your organization have more impact and establish deeper relationships with your donors and supporters. Contact Bethany Cranfield at 469-454-0100 to get more information.