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Better Meetings: Who Is the Audience?

Published 6/30/2022

Defining your audience is critical to a good meeting. If you haven't defined your audience... who is the meeting even for?

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Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
I want you to have better meetings. You probably want you to have better meetings too. In today's episode, we're going to talk about another aspect of meetings that you might have been ignoring before today. And I hope you never ignore it again. My name is Jonathan Cutrell. You're listening to Developer Tea. In the last episode, we talked about identifying what kind of meeting you're in, what kind of goal do you have for that meeting? Is the goal some kind of specific output? Is the goal a process goal? Here's the two basic kinds of meetings. Remember process and mission-oriented meetings, the process meetings should make up the vast majority of your meetings. If you see meetings popping up on your calendar all the time, that's a bad sign. It's a smell. What you're looking for there is to try to fix those pop-up meetings through your process. The fact that those pop-up meetings are taking over means that your process meetings are insufficient. You might need to change something about how your process meetings are getting run. Something about the work that's done between them. The mission-oriented meetings are a last resort because they're expensive and they're difficult to run in a really well structured way. In today's episode though, I want to discuss, once you've determined that a meeting is necessary, how do you calibrate what your contribution is to that meeting? I want you to think about your meetings from now on. I want you to think about them as something that people are going to as an investment. Think about them in terms of those people being an audience to your meeting. And you being the person who's communicating to that audience. Now, this is true for everyone who's participating in the meeting, usually, unless you are legitimately giving a demo or some kind of presentation to another person. If this is a collaborative meeting, then there are multiple audiences. But the critical thing to remember for your participation in this meeting is to calibrate your participation to the audience that's in the meeting. Now, it's important to note that you might have multiple audiences in the meeting. If this is the case, then there's another smell. It's likely that you're trying to do too much with one meeting. It's very possible that you're trying to do a status update where you're covering five or six different statuses to five or six different stakeholders. And everyone else kind of waits their turn to cover their part of the status. Instead, try to limit the number of audiences, the number of kind of stakeholder responders to whatever it is that you or another messenger has to say. So if you can identify who your audience is, then you can identify what kind of information and what part you are playing to that audience. Remember, we have a goal in mind for our meeting. We know what the output should be. So now, how do we calibrate our message towards that output for that particular audience member or that particular group of people? Think about it like this. There are things that I would talk about in my one-on-one with another engineer that I wouldn't necessarily talk about in a retro. Right, these are two similar kind of outcomes. We want to improve performance and morale amongst the team. We want to help our engineers grow. We might want that in both the retro and in the one-on-one, but the audience change here goes from one individual to a group of individuals. The tone and the topics that are covered is going to shift. There might be some overlap, but it's going to shift because obviously I wouldn't talk about highly personal things or an individual engineer's growth path during a retro with our whole team. Where this really makes a difference, though, is when you have two completely different audiences. For example, you might be demoing your product. Well, if you're demoing your product to other engineers, you might focus on particular aspects of the engineering that those engineers care about versus if you're demoing to a stakeholder like an investor or maybe a product support specialist, you're probably not going to focus on the engineering aspects of the demo. Understanding who your audience is changes both the message and the value of the time spent. Here's a critical question to ask yourself. If you are not paying attention to who the audience is in your meetings, who is the meeting for? I say this again, if you're not paying attention to who the audience is in the meeting that you're getting ready to have today on your calendar, then who is that meeting benefiting? Who is the meeting for? Often the uncomfortable truth is one of two things. Either one, we're doing the meeting because we're supposed to. There's some kind of norm or standard that we're following. We're a box that we're checking. It's one of our process meetings. And yes, those process meetings can be wrong. They may need to go away entirely. Certain category of them might. In this case, the uncomfortable answer to that question of who is this meeting for is we don't really know. We're doing it because we think we should. The second answer to this is that the meeting is for ourselves or better put, we are getting the most value out of this meeting because we get a chance to express our own thoughts or our own feelings. And while yes, it is important that you have an avenue to express your thoughts and your feelings in your job. I do believe that. Calibrating all of your meetings so that those are your outlets is probably not a productive way to spend your time. Instead, take a step back. And think about what the purpose of this meeting really is as it turns out, if you do have a one-on-one with your manager, that should be a time where you can express your thoughts and feelings. But most other meetings that you have in a professional context are not really for that. If you're not asking who your audience is, that's a yellow flag at the very least. Take a moment to consider who the audience is in the meeting and calibrate your message, calibrate your content and your questions to be appropriate for that audience. This will make a huge difference. And really, it only takes a few minutes, typically, to pay attention to this. Spend the extra five to ten minutes before your meeting, thinking about the goal of the meeting in context of the audience of the meeting, the goal of the meeting in the context of the audience of the meeting. Thanks so much for listening to today's episode of Developer Tea. I hope it helps you make your meetings better. We'll be back next week with two more episodes. So if you don't want to miss out on those, go ahead and subscribe in whatever pie casting you have. You're currently using in lieu of a sponsor message today. I'd love to ask for you to take a moment to do one of two things, your choice. Either one, share this episode with somebody that you think would appreciate it as you were listening through this you might have thought, oh, this sounds like something that this other person in my life, in my career, would like or has talked about before. Take a moment to send them this episode. And if you are the person who got sent this episode, well, thank you for listening. I really appreciate all of the listeners of this show. And this really is the reason I keep this thing going because it actually helps people. And that brings me to the second point. I'd love to hear your feedback. Specifically, I'd love to have reviews and ratings and iTunes. That's a primary mode of feedback that really helps us show out because it helps other engineers decide that they want to try Developer Team. The second form of feedback is if you join our Developer Tea Discord community, this is ongoing feedback because you're participating in a community of like-minded engineers, like yourself. Instead of just listening to me talk twice a week, you can have an ongoing stream of discussion about these topics. Don't check it out at eithertoDeveloper Tea.com slash discord to join for free today. Thanks so much for listening and until next time, enjoy your tea.