It wasn't just the projector half-blinding him whenever he looked up from writing on it, or the fact that he had stumbled over it twice - they were simply the obvious clues. The main reason was that it had imprisoned James in an invisible cell that restrained his movements at the front of the room. The gradual erosion of confidence and the increasing sense of stress was almost palpable.
The room was ganging up against James - not so much the people, it was the actual furniture! They had taken control of his meeting before James had even started, and he was still largely unaware of the fact.
Have you ever felt like James?
Rule 1: It is YOUR room. And when you walk into your meeting room (wherever it is) your first action is to sort it out so that you will be able to facilitate the meeting comfortably from the outset.
- Position the flipcharts so you can use them easily - or put them back against the wall so you can bring them out when you need them.
- Give yourself space to move about, to direct people's attention to the screen without getting in the way, to get to your notes, to move toward and away from participants.
- Arrange the tables and chairs to enable you to get people easily engaged in whatever you have planned for them. Or get rid of the tables altogether.
It will mean you will have to schedule some time before the attendees arrive, but it will be worth it.
And, if you find, part way through the meeting, that you are still not comfortable, then do not put up with it. Stop. Move things around again so that you are comfortable and then carry on.
You are leading this meeting - if you cannot control the furniture, what hope will you have with the attendees?
And while we are about it ... are there other aspects of your meetings that you don't question or challenge?
- Why they are always multiples of 30 minutes?
- Why they are scheduled to repeat monthly?
- Why the presentation is at the meeting?
- Whether the deliverables to be achieved are clear?
- Whether they can be delivered in a different way?
- If your participation is necessary for the whole thing?
Too often, we fall into patterns and routines that we take as default, and within that we can sometimes overlook the waste and inefficiency that build up around those assumptions. What is it about your own meetings that you no longer question - and are there opportunities there for you?