Getting the right people in the room

In my last post, I spoke about Gogglebox for meetings. The post was designed, in part, to promote the idea of being conscious of other people who have an interest in what happens in your meeting. In corporate speak, it's about "engaging key internal and external stakeholders" - at least intellectually. This post focuses on ways that you can do that more deliberately citing a couple of examples that you can apply immediately.

The empty chair

It's possible that this meeting may be taking the empty chair metaphor too far. One is probably enough. Photo by Benjamin Child on Unsplash

It's possible that this meeting may be taking the empty chair metaphor too far. One is probably enough. Photo by Benjamin Child on Unsplash

At Amazon, there has been a practice for a few years to include an empty chair in each meeting. The empty chair is representative of the customer and designed to keep the customer in the mind and decision making of participants. As one Amazon was quoted in an Inc article:

"One problem is that the customer isn't really there at every meeting, so what we like to do at every meeting is we reserve a seat for the customer."

It sounds a bit strange and is undoubtedly a bit awkward on occasions. It is one way that one of the biggest companies tries to keep their most important people (customers) in the room. I've heard stories of other companies actually having a mannequin in a seat for the same reason!

The foyer chat

A friend of mine recently described a similar technique that is being adopted at his company. He works in Financial Services and was one (of many!) institutions whose culture and ways of working were under heavy scrutiny during a Royal Commission. One of the things that attendees are encouraged to do is to "(metaphorically) take the lift down to the foyer as if we were going to quickly chat with a member/client and tell them how the 55 minutes we just spent in the meeting would benefit them. If we can't articulate any benefit to a member/customer for holding a meeting, then the meeting should not be held. Simple as that."

Again, bringing important perspectives to the front of mind within meetings.

Both of these are just examples that point to the importance of being able to keep the perspectives of important people or groups of people "in the meeting". These examples were customers, others may be shareholders, Board members, employees or regulators. The same principles apply - make sure your meetings make a positive difference.

It might help lift your meeting performance if you consider:

  1. Who do you need to ensure gets value from your meetings (even if they don't attend)?

  2. How could you keep these people front of mind during your meetings?