How to Lead a (Productive) Meeting, Part Two

Leading a meeting with purpose is so crucial to productivity and efficiency. Here is more of my conversation with the ‘expert’ on leading meetings, Trent Dunham:

Nils: I’ve been in a lot of meetings with you. Sometimes we are in and out in 30 minutes and other times we chat and take a lot of breaks. How have you developed when it comes to reading the room?

Trent: The first thing I would say is to always be aware. If you are leading a meeting, people are looking to you for the next destination. And if you’re not attuned to what’s happening in the room, it quickly becomes apparent that you’re tone deaf.

Body language is so important. Is that person smiling or looking frustrated? Are they leaning back in their chair with their arms crossed? Are they leaning in? Are they engaged? Are they making eye contact?

I once walked into a meeting with a new client. There were three of them in the room, and it was our first true strategy meeting. I walked up to the whiteboard to diagram something we were going to work through with them. The moment I got up, one of the executives picked up his phone, leaned back in his chair, and did not stop looking at it for the next two hours.

That spoke to me: This person has no interest in being here, thinks that what I’m talking about is unimportant, and doesn’t see any value in being a part of the conversation.

So, I addressed the other two people who were in the room. And we were productive. I circled back later to find out if there was something I could do differently to better engage that person.

Secondly, before you go into your meeting, know what their pain points are. If you walk in with an agenda that says, “I have tasks to accomplish,” it can come across a bit selfish.

I will often take an agenda that is developed by our team and blow it up. I usually do this to reorder things because I know when we walk into that room, this person is only thinking about one goal or issue, for example, attaining new donors.

So if getting new donors is number eight on our agenda when we walk in, we’ve just communicated to that person that we don’t understand their greatest need or stress level.

Build your agenda around the client’s needs.

My team will often laugh when we walk into a meeting with an agenda because there are very few times that I will stick to it! I see it more as a road map.

Nils: You’ve been leading meetings since you were 30 with people who were likely twice your age. As a young leader, how do you lead a room when it’s intimidating?

Trent: Be comfortable in what you know and what you don’t know. And be confident! There are times you might have an answer for every question and other times when there is power in saying, “Let me talk to someone and get back to you on that…” Or even just, “I don’t know. That’s not really the area we focus on.” I think people appreciate knowing the guardrails and the sandbox you operate in.

My parents grew up in Los Angeles and belonged to a church called The Church of the Open Door. At that time, it was led by a pastor named J. Vernon McGee.

Dr. McGee was a bigger-than-life figure. Once a week, my grandfather would take him to play golf as a time to decompress. I found a photo after my grandfather passed away of him and Dr. McGee in the tee box on the golf course. Dr. McGee is in slacks, suspenders, and a tank top!

I keep that picture on my desk to remind myself that the clients we work with and serve are just normal people with stresses that come along with ministry.

And so I want to communicate this: “The skills that I’m bringing to you are not skills that you’ve been called to develop. God has called you to reach people with the gospel. God has called you to communicate at a high level. God has called you to send food to kids who need it. He’s given me a totally different calling, and that’s to help you do more of the ministry you’ve been called to do.”

For further tips on how to lead a meeting effectively, be sure to check out more of this conversation on The Dunham Podcast episode, How to Lead a (Productive) Meeting.

More Insights from Dunham+Company: “How to Lead a (Productive) Meeting, Part One”

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