I have run lots of meetings. You can make them useful not angry. Easily. I learnt this stuff by being ambushed and working it out.
I was at a meeting tonight where it all went really wrong, really quickly.
Ideally – don’t have meetings, but do something together and talk as you do it. But when you do need a meeting, here are six steps for running one with a likely-to-be-angry group:
1. Welcome everyone with tea and coffee. Talk to them as they come in: they will be less angry if you’ve looked them in the eye, told them your name, said hello.
2. Don’t have a top table – if you do, it’s them and us. Use groups or lumps of chairs or a cabaret-style layout. Change the dynamic of the room with the furniture.
3. Make feedback mechanisms easy from the start: have tables with activities, or boards with Post-its. Let people unload some of their anger before the meeting starts – and start by saying ‘we’re listening to you’.
4. Give gifts. A badge, pencil, notebook or something small. It makes it an exchange. ‘Thank you for coming. In return for your valuable opinions, here’s something back.’
5. Give something extra, so that the people who’ve come are the special ones. George at Maybridge Boys Club used to drum into us children ‘you’re all VIPs’. Treat people like VIPs. Start with ‘here’s a tour of venue’ or ‘here’s a behind-scenes film that nobody else has seen’.
6. There will be questions and you will have to answer. Make the Q&A in groups, around tables or around interactive activity. Not you against the whole crowd.