July 2017

Print this page ›

July 2017

Thoughts from Mark Shanda

USITT President

Effective Meetings – We all can benefit.

For many of us the current season has come to an end and the next one is beginning to become a reality. Budgets have been established, production teams assembled, and the pace of design and planning meetings, whether face-to-face or through electronic means, is beginning to pick up. Such gatherings around the conference table or in front of computer screens are considered by some a necessary evil and by others the highpoint of the collaborative process. What can clearly make a difference in the success of these endeavors is the clarity of roles that each in attendance play.

If you are the leader of the meeting, you have an obligation to all involved to both set the agenda and to see that the agenda is followed. This doesn’t mean ignoring the weather, avoiding the latest political news, or rejecting the sports headlines, but it does mean that all involved should know the purpose of the gathering before they arrive and be confident that what is planned is what will be covered. Casual, opening conversations of a limited duration are appropriate. 

Balancing the various gathered voices is one of the bigger challenges in running an effective meeting. As a leader, you can permit digression but not disruption and you should strive to make sure all get heard from their unique vantage point and within an appropriate amount of time. The focus during some meetings naturally shifts from department to department, with design development having priority one time and logistics another. Being mindful of the ebb and flow of the overall production process, with a constant eye on the ultimate goal is a critical skill set for any leader. One specific leadership contribution is effective summarization during the conversation and at the end. Asking effective questions to illicit the response of others is also helpful as all work together to maximize the use of the time together and strive for success.

Just as important as leadership of a production meeting, is effective participation by all involved. Be prepared for each meeting, doing your homework in advance, anticipating both the questions that you might get and those that you need to ask. Understand and accept the responsibility for the group dynamics involved, giving deference when appropriate and challenging when necessary.

Meeting participants must listen attentively, speak briefly, and get to the point rapidly. An effective strategy is the reflective listening technique of parroting back what you think that you have heard only using your own words. Many a production nightmare has been avoided by the simply clarification of “I think I hear you saying…” responded to by, “No, what I was trying to say was...” That exchange alone can sometime lead to priceless breakthroughs.

We are an industry that is people dependant and our meetings are a critical part of the connections that we need to make great art. Enjoy your time together, celebrating agreements, working through challenges, and bringing your next project to life.

Mark Shanda

We'd like to hear your comments on this story.
Please e-mail Mark at Shanda.1@osu.edu.