4 communication tricks for running a productive meeting

I have been having meetings with different stakeholders every week these days. I started to realize the importance of communication skills.

Especially during the quarantine time, scheduling another meeting is not easy anymore. Running a productive meeting has become particularly important now.

“What kinds of communication skills? Why do we need them?”

Communication skills may be heavily taught in some majors like business and finance. But for software engineer students, it’s never mandatory. There are many chances of doing presentations on the class. Yet, these scenarios are only among students/professors who have common knowledge of a certain topic. In a real workplace, communication often happens among different stakeholders.

The following video shows the communication difficulties between a product manager and a back-end developer in a dramatic way.

This video may exaggerate the conflicts between the product manager and the back-end developer. But the pain that the developer feels is real and common.

“How can I ensure that I understand others? How can I make myself understood? ”

These are the two major questions in my head when it comes to running a meeting. Thus, I summarize my answers for the two questions into the following four tricks.

“What tricks? How to implement them?”

Trick 1: give a pause for the audience. In a meeting, we can be a presenter or an audience. When you are the presenter, it is important to make sure your audience is on the same page with you. What you can do is give a pause for the audience by saying “Does it make sense to everyone?” when you finish your demonstration of an idea. If you follow some nice online courses, you may notice this trick frequently used by the lecturers (for example, in Computer Architecture given by Prof. Onur Mutlu).

Trick 2: Repeat the questions before you answer them. Misunderstandings could easily happen at the Q&A session. This happens when people use the same term for different meanings. When the audience throws a question at you, don’t rush to answer them. You should repeat the questions by saying “are you asking that …”. This makes sure that you and the audience are talking about the thing.

Trick 3: Make a small summary of the discussion before going into the next topic. After a small brainstorm (chaotic) discussion, there may be plenty of ideas coming out. It is useful to make a summary of the discussion. This ensures every member reaches an agreement for the discussion. This is usually done by the meeting host.

Trick 4: paraphrase the story in your own words. When you are the audience, you may be not sure that you’ve got their points. To narrow the knowledge gap, you can retell their ideas in your own words. Then the presenter could explain what you may miss out.

Knowing these tricks is easy while implementing them takes self-improvement awareness and practice. Start applying them in your meetings, and you will soon notice a boost in your productivity.

May all your online meetings go well!

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