3 Steps to Improve Your Annual Meeting

November 29, 2021

Lots of articles have been written about how to improve meetings, but they’re mostly about the day-t0-day meetings you have at your organization. Not a lot has been written about your biggest and most expensive meeting: your annual corporate conference. Yet this is a large expense with lasting consequences. It can inspire and motivate employees, or it can be boring and irrelevant. I’ve spoken at hundreds of corporate conferences, where I’ve seen that some mistakes are common and yet easy to prevent with a little forethought. So this week and next, I’ll discuss these common mistakes so that you can avoid them and improve meetings in general, but especially your next annual meeting. This week, I’m covering tips for your internal speakers, such as senior executives. Next week, I’ll talk about how to put together a conference that delivers the results you seek.
Since conferences carry a hefty price tag—both in the hard expenses and the time away from
business activities—they should provide the outcomes you expect, such as:

  • Improving morale
  • Aligning the team on the year's goals
  • Inspiring Fun
  • Generating buy-in, camaraderie, and company pride

Hiring an outside speaker for your keynote presentation, especially one that is not related to technical industry knowledge, can be a refreshing addition, but staff will also want to hear from the organization’s leaders. Even if your executives are seasoned speakers, but especially if they’re not, it’s often challenging to deliver a speech that resonates, entertains, and drives action.  The tips below will help.

Map Out Your Talk

No matter how comfortable you feel about the idea of speaking in front of a crowd, preparation is everything. A rambling discourse that has no structure and leaves the audience wondering about the point will stunt enthusiasm and give ammunition to any naysayers. It’s often the thing people will remember. To improve your company meeting, ensure that all scheduled speakers plan their comments in advance, practice them, and even solicit feedback from other leaders.

Determine exactly what you want to accomplish, and don’t try to get across more than three important points in your talk. Follow this old adage: “Tell them what you’re going to tell them. Tell them. Then tell them what you told them.” In other words, introduce your ideas, expand on them and then review them. This helps your message stick with your audience. Insert some jokes. Humor always makes content better. And if you’re a senior leader, self-deprecating humor will help make you more relatable to your team.

Get Your Slides Right

Visuals enhance any message. This does not mean slides with bullet points that you read to the audience. If you must put words on slides, aim for no more than three to five words per slide. Look for ways you can use pictures instead of words. Pictures reinforce your points with your audience. Pick an image that relates to the point you want to make and fill the slide with it. If you’re using bullet points because you’re afraid you can’t memorize your script, get familiar with Presenter’s View.

Remember that any visual element on your slides needs to “read” well in the room where you’ll speak. Detailed infographics can be hard to interpret in a large room. Ahead of your talk, do a test run. Put your slides up and have someone who has never seen them stand in the back of a large room. If that person can’t see them, your audience won’t be able to see them, either.

And here’s one final tip on slides. Never face them, or even turn around and look at them. Maintain eye contact with your audience.

Remember: Leaders are Role Models

The talks presented at your annual meetings are about delivering the right messages to your team. But it’s also an opportunity to show staff how they should handle their own internal or customer-facing presentations. If you’re a leader, what do you expect your team to deliver in their presentations that you can model in your own talk? Your team deserves at least the same quality you’d deliver to pitch your most important client or investors.

Watch for next week’s article (or click “next” at the bottom of this page) for specifics about the agenda and the on-site time. These ideas will help you improve your annual company meetings (whether you have it managed by a professional or an internal committee), ensuring the objectives are met and the investment is well spent.


- Maura Nevel Thomas, author of The Happy Inbox

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