Let's take a look at what off-site sales meeting management can get you:
- corporate visibility;
- control over a budget and agenda;
- influence over who says what about which;
- a chance to prove you can coordinate complex events;
- an opportunity to bank some IOU's from those who can further your career;
- an opportunity to exclude those who can't advance your career; and
- site selection muscle: where would you like to play golf?
Here are 15 black-belt meeting moves you can make to translate potential into
- Organize a program advisory committee: Let everyone know who's on it.
Find out what your sales force needs: Famous career termination line: "I already know what my sales
- If things go well, take credit as chairman.
- If the meeting bombs, spread the fallout!
Circulate a statement of meeting goals and objectives: This will reinforce your position, and flag you as
someone to watch.
- Use focus groups to get at hidden agendas.
- Tap a sampling of territory reps for suggestions. Accept anonymous submissions.
- Encourage notes via e-mail, intranet, or website.
- Review last year's scripts and speeches. You may find they bear little resemblance to what has actually been happening
during the year.
Be careful about advance publicity: Don't start taking credit for a great meeting until you've had one.
The best laid plans of mice and managers.
- People hate defining goals and objectives. They'll be so glad you're doing it there's not much chance your
choices will be challenged.
- You can always change your mind later. No one will remember what you said by the time the meeting takes place, anyway.
Always ask your boss to make a speech: And, for God's sake, get a microphone and sound system that work!
Schedule the speech as the first thing in the meeting, or the last.
- A glowing preview in your company newsletter will surely backfire if your meeting does.
Identify an alternate producer: If you're using an outside meeting producer or AV firm be sure you've
identified at least one more who could handle your job in an emergency.
- First is good, in case the rest of the meeting is a dog.
- Last is usually okay, too. Even if you've had a mediocre meeting there will be enthusiastic applause to celebrate the end
of an incredibly pedestrian event.
Position yourself carefully: Give serious thought to when, and how often, you appear onstage. Pick and
plan your shots.
- If your first choice doesn't work, or goes out of business, you'll have a standby. This could save your meeting and your
Announce sales awards soon after the meeting starts: (Can't justify any? Make up some reasons and pass
them out anyway.)
- Never come on cold. Microphone tapping and "Can everyone hear me, out there?" is not exactly a leadership launch.
- An audio-visual intro works if it ends with your picture, name, and title. If using live talent, have them escort you to
- A senior management videotape intro works. If budget's a problem, at least put up a slide with your name and title.
- Don't hog the host slot unless you can pull it off. Over exposure diminishes your impact. Managing two or three days of
good introductory and transition material, plus your own presentation(s), is tough.
- Avoid introducing, or following, a weak presentation. Every sales meeting has one or two. You'll know which they are. (Give the job to someone who's after the same promotion you are.)
- Get yourself mentioned in other presentations. "As (your name) pointed out during last year's meeting" or "
Later this morning you'll be hearing more about this from (your name)."
Feature somebody no one ever heard of: Pick out a bright junior staff person and give them a five-minute
shot at the lectern.
- Postponing recognition deprives recipients of additional time to enjoy congratulations, while relishing the anguish of
those who were passed over.
- Give the award ceremony a name: President's Club, Winner's Circle, Top Performers, Quota Busters! so it will gain in sound
what it may lack in substance.
- Hand out awards yourself. Or, if you have to, at least introduce the person who will. Don't miss the chance to be
identified with this delivery of psychic largess.
- Furnish winners with some visible indication they won something so they can be spotted easily, e.g. a medallion, blazer,
badge, sash, carnation (whatever.)
- Double the awards if your meeting has nothing new to say. Retrofit recognition. This will shift attention from what's not
being said to what has been done.
Don't get buried by graphics: Audio-visual types love assault-rifle graphic changes and special effects
that convert your speech into a supporting sound track (and play hell with your budget).
- A magnanimous move like this is what legends (yours) are made of. Not to mention what it does for morale back at the home
Don't get beaten by your own schtick: Be careful about wearing funny hats and appearing in
- Begin your presentation without any graphics at all. Make the audience concentrate on you for a few minutes.
- Don't force visual support. Many presentations have areas that don't justify it. There's nothing wrong with the audience
looking at you once in a while.
- For extended periods between graphics (more than 2 minutes) turn the room lights back on. This change-of-pace, and
viewpoint switch, keeps people awake.
- Fight hardware hypnosis. Video walls, laser lights, and hi-res TV projectors are often better for rental house profits than
- Schedule enough time for equipment setups and rehearsals – particularly yours!
Never confuse content with impact: Meeting content often dissipates during the day and evaporates on the
way back to the airport. But residual impact problems can hang around and haunt you for months:
- You may have corporate correction responsibilities that aren't made any easier to enforce by playing Bozo the clown.
- Every sales force has its cadre of authority busters gunning for a chance to convert respect to ridicule.
Document and distribute: Videotape your speech. Have photos taken of yourself handing out awards.
- People never forget (or, forgive) lost luggage; misspelled name badges; singing This Land Is Your Land at eight in the
morning; out-of-tune high school marching bands, projectors that don't work, squealing sound systems and abbreviated
Conduct a follow-up evaluation: Send out e-mail questionnaires; invite letters; encourage phone calls; have field
managers solicit comments.
- Get pictures into your company newsletter and intranet. Try for video clips in the employee newscast. Put photo blow-ups
on your office wall and department bulletin-board.
- If you've got the clout videotape the whole meeting. Then edit and try for a senior management screening of selected
excerpts. Don't overlook the value of some sales force video-verité‚ "Great! Best sales meeting we've ever
Manage, don't just facilitate: To get a sales meeting working for you you have to work for it.
- Feedback will flatter the people you ask, defuse gripes, and improve your next meeting.
- Circulate a response summary that makes you look good. Include a few complaints for credibility. Put your own spin on a
meeting review for the company newsletter or website.
- It's hands on time! Don't just delegate, coordinate, observe, or advise. You'll lose control while someone else gains it.
A final note: Banish guilt and celebrate self-interest! The additional time you spend making sure you look
good will improve the meeting for everyone else!
The above article has been reprinted with permission from Mackenzie's book It's Show Time!
Click on the cover for more info about this essential meeting masters survival guide.
Although out-of-print, collector's edition copies are available on Amazon.com
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