Management Articles


Building Career Clout with Sales Meetings: 13 Killer-Karate Meeting Master Moves

By: John Mackenzie

John Mackenzie is a self-employed corporate communications writer who has been creating sales meetings for 30 years. Those interested in learning more can check his website, The Writing Works, at or e-mail him at

Dedicated to those who realize that meetings are more important for those who give them,  than they are for those who come to them.
  1. Organize a program advisory committee. Let everyone know who's on it.
    • If things go well, take credit as chairman.
    • If the meeting bombs, share the blast and spread the fallout!

  2. Find out what your sales force needs. Famous career termination line: "I already know what my sales reps want!"
    • - Use focus groups to get at hidden agendas.
    • Tap a sampling of territory reps for suggestions. Accept anonymous submissions.
    • Encourage feedback via e-mail, intranet, or website.
    • Review previous meeting scripts and speeches.

  3. Circulate a statement of meeting goals and objectives. This will reinforce your position, and flag you as someone to watch.
    • 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.

  4. Be careful about advance publicity. Don't start taking credit for a great meeting until you've had one.
    • A glowing preview in your company newsletter will surely backfire if your meeting does.

  5. 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. 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.

  6. Identify an alternate producer. If you're using an outside meeting producer, be sure you've identified at least one more who could handle your job in an emergency.
    • If your first choice doesn't work, or goes out of business, you'll have a standby. This could save your meeting and your reputation.

  7. Position yourself carefully. Give serious thought to when, and how often, you appear on stage. Pick and plan your shots.
    • 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 the lectern.
    • A senior management videotape intro works.
    • If budget's a problem, at least toss up a Powerpoint 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)."

  8. Announce sales awards soon after the meeting starts. Can't justify any? Make up some reasons and pass them out anyway.
    • 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! This will shift attention from what's not being said to what has been done.

  9. Feature somebody no one ever heard of. Pick out a bright staff support type and give them a five-minute shot at the lectern.
    • - A magnanimous move like this is what legends (yours) are made of. Not to mention what it does as an incentive back at the home office.

  10. 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).
    • - Begin your presentation without any graphics at all. Let the audience concentrate on you for a few minutes.
    • Don't force visual support. Many presentations have areas that don't justify it.
    • 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 the producer's bottom line than your future.
    • Schedule enough time for equipment setups and rehearsals: particularly yours!

  11. Document and distribute. Videotape your speech. Have photos taken of yourself handing out awards.
    • Get pictures into your company newsletter, and video clips in the employee newscast or website. 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 verite, "Great! Best sales meeting we've ever had!"

  12. Conduct a follow-up evaluation. Send out e-mail questionnaires; invite letters; encourage phone calls; have regional and district managers solicit comments.
    • - 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.
    • Figure out ways to extend meeting value, message,and impact after the meeting is over.

  13. Manage, don't just facilitate. To get a sales meeting working for you, you have to work for it. It's hands on time! Don't just delegate, coordinate, observe, or advise. You'll lose control while someone else  gains it.

© Copyright 2001 John Mackenzie

The author assumes full responsibility for the contents of this article and retains all of its property rights. ManagerWise publishes it here with the permission of the author. ManagerWise assumes no responsibility for the article's contents.


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