Make Sure It’s Not a Total Waste

Is this meeting really necessary?

Have you ever noticed how often things don’t go as you planned?

I was invited to give a short 15 minute presentation of my book to a Business Advisory Group at my university. I was honored they would ask me to speak and gladly accepted the invitation. I was actually looking forward to this because there were a good number of decision makers in the room.

The meeting was 2.5 hours long, and I was on the agenda for the last 15 minutes. That’s right. For a 2.5 hour meeting, I was the guy to go the last 15 minutes, right before lunch. They say never be the “guy standing before an audience and lunch.”

I was that guy.

I’m sure you already know where this is going, but as the meeting progressed, I could slowly sense that my 15 minutes might be shrunken down to more like 10 minutes. That’s ok, I was prepared. I had a 15 minute version, 10 minute, and even 5 minute version of my talk! I was ready. I could have one story to share and one point to make – that’s more than enough time. At the mid-way point, I began to realize unless we skipped a few items on the agenda – I really wouldn’t have more than 5 minutes to present. Ok, how can I present in 2-3 minutes?

In the last 30 minutes of the meeting, I knew we were going over time and my mini-presentation would be nixed. The person that invited me apologized for the lack of time and asked if I might be interested in presenting during lunch?

I thanked him for the opportunity, but told him that would be a bad idea. Everyone was seated in round tables talking loudly and connecting with their colleagues. The meeting room planner had already removed the projector and screen (I had a few cool slides prepared). The podium and microphone were on the opposite end of the room. Finally, it would take away from the objective of our students networking with the Advisory Board members.

Was I disappointed? Yes.

But what good does it do to brood, complain, or sulk about it? It was a useful board meeting and I am glad that I had the opportunity to attend. The meeting facilitator did purchase 11 signed copies of my book and I was able to meet with most of the board members and thank them for serving our university. Maybe there will be another chance next year? Maybe there won’t, but for me it was a quick reminder that sometimes things don’t work out the way you want them to.

I began to think of all the other things I could have been doing during those 2.5 hours I was waiting for my turn to speak. I had papers to grade, articles to write, I could have made more progress on my book, etc.

So I began to jot down the things I was grateful for, here’s what I scribbled:

  1. grateful for my job here at Walsh
  2. grateful these busy executives take time out of their schedules to meet with us and students
  3. grateful that I have 11 Board members that will walk away with a copy of my book
  4. free lunch
  5. connect with students and a close friend and colleague on the Advisory board

But I also wanted to write down some thoughts for future meetings so this was not a total waste of my morning.

If you’re ever in a similar situation where you are asked to speak at a business function, here’s what I would suggest for future invitations:

  1. Ask clarifying questions of meeting planner to ensure speaking time slot is kept (as much as reasonably possible).
  2. If you sense things are not keeping with time, ask to be moved up the agenda if possible.
  3. Bring other work with you for any multi-hour meeting where you are not actively participating. As long as you’re not a distraction, I don’t think it’s rude to work while they work.

We all have the same time limitations as everyone else. Be sure to make the most of it.

Be flexible. Don’t be a diva. Roll with the punches and learn to make better decisions next time.

“The successful man will profit from his mistakes and try again in a different way.” ~ Dale Carnegie


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