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December 9, 2020 4 mins

A lesson from orchestras on how to start your meetings

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Episode Transcript

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Speaker 1 (00:04):
Good morning. This is Laura. Welcome to the New Corner Office,
the podcast where we share strategies for thriving in the
new world of work, where location and ours are more
flexible than in the past. Today's tip is to let
the first five minutes of a video conference be like

(00:25):
the overture for the meeting. Pick up the major themes
and set the tone in a compressed way, and you'll
create a more cohesive and productive whole. If you're like
a lot of people, this December, you'll watch The Nutcracker,
the mesmerizing story balet set to Tchaikowski's beloved music. Of course,

(00:46):
this year you might be watching from the couch instead
of in a grand theater, but still, from the moment
the music begins, listeners are transported to a Christmas party
at Clara's house, a battle between soldier and mice, and
the magical land of the suites. The Nutcracker begins with
the miniature overture, which were introduced to some of the

(01:08):
themes and instruments will here again later. Many different ballets
or operas begin this way. Composers know that how we
begin is how we go, and a good overture is
a preview of what's to come. You can do something
similar to start your grand productions otherwise known as your meetings.

(01:29):
Here's what I mean. The first few minutes of a
meeting are seldom focused on the exact core question that
you intend to address. They are the opener, but they
also set the tone and shouldn't be treated as a
throat clearing throwaway moment where everyone mumbles something about the weather.
Treated strategically, this overture can prepare people for a great session,

(01:54):
So step one, think about it. An orchestra doesn't just
sit down and see what happens, and neither should you. Second,
find a way into your main topic that's in a
slightly varied form. So for instance, if you're talking about
themes for an upcoming virtual conference, you might ask people
to share one cool thing they've experienced in a recent

(02:17):
virtual conference or webinar. You can put this question on
the agenda so people aren't stomped, well unless they didn't
look at the agenda, in which case, don't have those
people go first. If you're getting feedback on a grant
proposal for a summer youth program, everyone might share a
thirty second summer job memory or a camp memory or

(02:38):
something along those lines. And third, you want people to
act in the overture as they will in the rest
of the meeting. And those two examples, people were going
to be asked for ideas, so you want to get
them sharing ideas. And even more importantly, you want everyone
sharing ideas within rules going around the room in turn

(03:01):
time limited, and with people getting used to hearing all voices,
everyone else is getting background on people's perspectives. They are
actively listening. That sets the tone exactly as you want
the meeting to proceed. If, on the other hand, you
want people's ideas but you start the meeting with a

(03:21):
five minute diet tribe against something completely unrelated, well people
are going to be furtively cleaning out their inbox and
good luck getting ideas later. How we start is how
we go. An overture doesn't last forever, it is just
a few minutes, but a well executed overture establishes that

(03:42):
you have gathered for a purpose, the meeting has been
thought through as a coherent whole, and you have expectations
for the group. Maybe not to play a glockenspield or
dance like the sugar culm ferry, but everyone will perform
their rules and concert together and create something really cool
as a result. And when it comes to meetings, that

(04:05):
is music to my ears. In the meantime, this is Laura.
Thanks for listening, and here's the succeeding in the New
Corner Office. The New Corner Office is a production of
I Heart Radio. For more podcasts, visit the I Heart
Radio app, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your favorite shows.
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