We are currently in a war for attention span. People are distracted, have a hard time focusing, and we are battling for their attention. This article will provide the ultimate tool to grab people's attention at the beginning of a meeting. Whether meetings are in-person or virtual, you can guarantee the only time participants pay attention is right at the start. Why? They are listening to determine whether the meeting is worth their time or if they can zone out. I've created a practical tool called "WAR squared" to grab your participants attention right at the start.
What do the letters WAR Squared stand for?
How can we use WAR squared?
1. Use WAR squared to prepare for a meeting. The WWARR buckets will enable you to think through the most critical elements of the session, such as why this meeting is useful and what will result from people spending time out of our day to meet. Listed below are examples for how you would use this to strategize for an internal and external meeting.
2. Use WAR squared in the meeting invite. After filling out the respective buckets, you can add the WAR breakdown to your meeting invite. It provides clarity for those attending and will motivate others to join.
3. Use WAR squared as a talk track to open your meeting. Many people struggle with how to kick off a meeting, and the beginning is the only time when everyone is listening. This tool gives you the perfect talk track for starting your sessions off strong, whether it is an internal or external meeting. Here are two examples of how it would sound if you were kicking off a meeting. Please note these are written as if they were spoken. The first example is for external client-facing meetings, and the second is for internal company meetings. The two versions demonstrate the tool's flexibility.
EXTERNAL CLIENT FACING TALK TRACK EXAMPLE
"Hi Everyone, thanks for joining our quarterly review. [See Above - What: Quarterly Client Review]
We want to ensure this is an excellent use of time. This quarterly review we will be focusing on the topics you mentioned were most important. First, we will address all concerns with the portfolio. Second, we came prepared with peer and competitor insights that will enable you to make critical decisions, and lastly, we have a list of opportunities that will either reduce costs or drive returns." [See Above - Why: 1) address portfolio concerns 2) insights for decision making 3) opportunities]
"We prepared an agenda but happy to adjust. We will start with a portfolio update, move to insights and opportunities, and finish with our risk specialist." [See Above - Agenda: 1) portfolio update 2) insights and opportunities 3) subject matter expert]
"We only have an hour so to ensure we are focused and productive I will make sure to keep us on track if we get off track, I'll call on people by name to check in because video conference can be a bit confusing. As always feel free to ask questions any time." [See Above - Road Rules: 1) keep us on track 2) Call People by Name 3) questions anytime]
"By the end of the meeting, we want to ensure you first, have confidence in the portfolio positioning and second clarity on any next steps or follow up items. Let me pause here; I want to check-in and see if there are any other items you want to cover by the end of the meeting?" [See Above - Results: 1) Confidence in portfolio positioning 2) Next steps and follow up items 3) Optional Check-In with Client]
INTERNAL MEETINGS TALK TRACK EXAMPLE
"Everyone welcome to the monthly status update meeting." (WHAT: Monthly Status Update)
"There are three main reasons you were invited this meeting. First, we must eliminate surprises on this critical project, and we need everyone to bring up any concerns in this meeting. Second, we've invited accounting to leverage their expertise. Third, by understanding the big picture of this project, you will be able to save time by identifying stakeholders you must sync up with." [See Above. -Why: 1) eliminate surprises 2) accounting input 3) save time]
"Moving on to our agenda. We will start by having each group provide a detailed update, we will then have other departments provide their input, and we will try to hold questions till the end." [See Above - Agenda: 1) update 2) input 3) questions]
"In order to keep the meeting productive and on time, we are asking you to do the following. First, please put your phones away. Second, we will call on you by name not to embarrass you, but because we are on a video call, it will help keep us organized, and we want everyones input. If you have nothing to add, just state nothing else to add. Lastly, please turn on your cameras so we can ensure you are engaged." [See Above - Road Rules: 1) No Phones 2) Call People by Name 3) Use Video]
"Lastly, results, what do we need to achieve by the end of this meeting? First, we need everyone to be aligned and completely clear on timeline and expectations. Second, everyone must speak up and share any concerns so we can eliminate any fire drills." [See Above - Results: 1) Ensure alignment and timeline 2) Everyone raises concerns]
There are a lot of similarities between internal and external meetings, but you have to use your best judgment on what is appropriate internally versus externally. For example, asking people not to use cell phones is easier internal than external. That isn't to say you cannot request this externally, but road rules may look a bit different with clients. WAR squared is a versatile tool you can use for any meeting.
For WAR squared to be effective, you should say it in less than 45 seconds. If you take over a minute, it will drag on, and people will start to zone out. Go ahead and test this theory with a friend or colleague. I've run this hundreds of times with clients and 45 seconds is the sweet spot for the majority of people. Secondly, make sure the why and results are clear because these two items gain buy-in from your attendees. If you have clear buy-in then you will win the war for attention span. The road rules are essential because it's hard to call someone out if you never set expectations up front. Road rules give you implicit permission to ensure the meeting is respectful and run well. People also secretly enjoy sessions that run effectively with fair road rules.
Your homework. Pick a meeting you lead and write out your WAR squared structure. After writing it out, practice out loud and record it. Please make sure you practice out loud! Listen to your recording and after listening practice out loud at least two to three more times. The first benefit of recording is to see how long you take. Make sure to say your WAR squared in no longer than 45 seconds. The second benefit of recording is to improve your clarity such as the clarity of your 'why' or the clarity of your 'results.' Preparation and practice shouldn't take more than 15 minutes. Too many meetings feel like a waste of time and practicing your opening will be the difference that makes the difference. Since most meetings are terrible this is a great way to stand out against your peers. No one knows whether you practice but they know if your meeting is terrible.