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FORE! – Leading a Meeting from a Golf Perspective

By Stephen Becker, Seagate Technology ITAK V8 I10

The way we communicate with others has a long-lasting, critical impact on our careers.  If we excel with every presentation, speech, or meeting, we can expect our careers to take us to new levels.  The opposite is true as well, so beware!

Let me also preface this next part with “I am NOT a PGA golfer,” heck; I’m not a scratch golfer!  My game is more along the lines of Happy Gilmore if he had zero talent, with the main reason I play being my love of the game.

For those that know golf, this should be quite humorous.  For those that aren’t as familiar with the game, I bet you will take just as much away from this article as us silly golfers will.

Appearance

Showing up on a golf course wearing sport shorts and a tank top with tennis shoes doesn’t quite give the impression of a quality player to others.  Normally, I seek those players out and try to join them in the hopes of gaining some false sense of superiority on the course.  Just so you know, it doesn’t often happen.  The reason it is a rare occurrence is that golf etiquette does not cater to that type of outfit.  Your appearance on the course will set the tone for how you are treated and viewed.  I wear golf shorts or pants; a polo style sports shirt and golf shoes to play.  This way, I am perceived as having, at least, a basic understanding of the game.

The same goes for business.  If we show up for a meeting in shorts and a tank top, game over.  Where we go from there is quite important.  You want to dress for your audience.  I tend to know what my audience wears and go one step further to project a sense of not only membership, but also leadership during the meeting.

Example: You are delivering a presentation to a C-Level audience.  Would you be best suited to wear jeans and a tee or something else?  That is the interesting part.  It depends on the common dress code at the meeting.  If they normally wear slacks and polo, you should wear slacks and a button up.  If they wear jeans and a tee, you can then wear jeans and a polo or button up.  This will show that you can take command and interact at their level.  It sets a level of confidence and respect in the room.

You will notice there is a common theme around all of my suggestions today.  They all have to do, specifically, with your audience.

Equipment

I own a full set of clubs.  They are not the top branded Callaway’s or even close to that.  I own a set of mid-tier clubs that have a nice clean bag.  I clean the club heads after every round of golf so they are ready to go again.  I also carry extra golf balls, a towel, sunscreen, an umbrella and a ball cap, at a minimum.  I try to be prepared for every situation when I am on the course.  The last thing I want to do is show up with a broken putter, 2 golf balls (which I will donate to the local watering hole, I’m sure), and nothing to protect me from scorching sunburn.

When we bring the correct equipment to a meeting or presentation, we are ensuring that we have a good set of tools to address any concerns or questions that may arise.  I keep a tablet next to me with all of my notes and anticipated questions, with answers, ready to go.  I bring extra pens and pads of paper, in case anyone is short.  I turn off my cell phone and try to put away any distractions.  This keeps the meeting on track and shows the audience that you respect their time.

Example:  You show up to a meeting, you are presenting, right at the start time.  When you go to turn on the overhead projector, it doesn’t work.  What do you do?  This will be the difference between a professional and the average Joe.  Personally, I would NOT be showing up just in time to start.  I would make sure I am there at least 5 minutes ahead of schedule.  If the projector didn’t work, I would have time to develop an alternate plan.  That plan may include a travel-sized projector I keep with me, or I may ask an assistant to print out copies of the presentation for everyone.  There is always an alternative way to present material, but only if you show up with the right equipment.

Terminology

Words like fore, birdie, par, driver, putter, wedge, chip, and on and on are all things you need to understand to be a good golfer.  Without knowing the terminology, you will feel like you just stepped into a different dimension where everyone speaks Golfanese.

Again, this is something that can be seen in business as well.  Any good communicator will tell you to cater your words to the audience.  This can be a daunting task if you are not aware of your audience.  If you are presenting to a technical team, you can get down and dirty with the technical details.  On the other hand, if you are presenting something to a financial analyst, you may want to use their common language.  If no one understands what you are presenting, no one wins.

Example:  You are in a meeting with desktop technicians.  You show them a slide about costs. You start explaining how they can save money and turn to look at the audience.  Everyone is on his or her phone working email.  You chose the wrong topic and words for this audience.  If you were to show them how you can save them time or do things easier and an overview of the potential outcome, you could have held them in the meeting.

Your Game

If you are like me, you don’t want to golf with a professional.  However, if I did have to play, I would bring my “A” game with me.  I would concentrate more.  I would be professional about poor shots, etc.  Also playing to my strengths is a key for me.  My long game is better than my short game in golf, so I need to ensure my long drives are on target so that my deficiencies on the green are overshadowed by something better.

As we go into a meeting with others, we need to remember that they expect to have something to take away from the meeting.  Whether they take away a new way of thinking about something, enhanced knowledge, or direction, they need to have something to remember you by.

I like to practice my speeches or meeting presentations prior to the real deal.  This allows two very important things to happen.  One, I get all my nerves in check and know that I am capable of presenting the material.  Two, I can judge timing and find flaws in the presentation before the live event.

Example:  You are presenting to a room full of IT directors. You show up with a great presentation and are fully prepared to talk about your topic.  You present on-time and answer all questions effectively with minimal “Let me find that out and get back to you” answers.  All the directors leave with a smile on their face.  This is good news, as you have held an effective meeting thanks to your preparedness.

Choose your Club Wisely

I have to constantly check my distances with my clubs.  What I want to avoid is looking like an idiot for under or over shooting by a mile.  Knowing which club to use at which time is a determining factor in the outcome of a round of golf:

  • The Driver and Woods:These clubs are for getting the ball a LOT closer to the hole.  In a meeting, my driver is a statement that can go a long way.  It is the one statement that sets the tone of the whole meeting and any outcome.
  • The Irons:Shorter, more specific shots, but still with a good amount of distance to be gained.  In a meeting, the irons are the big bullet points that you want to get across to your audience.
  • The Pitching Wedge:Last minute short shots to get on the green, or if I am REALLY lucky, in the hole.  You can pitch a shot that will bring you very close to the hole, or you can easily overshoot if you aren’t careful. In a meeting, the closer you get to the goal of the meeting, or the end, the smaller the shots of information get. 
  • The Sand Wedge:When things go bad, or I just want to lie out on the beach and get a nice tan, I have to use the sand wedge.  By the way, it’s never good to get a tan.  In a meeting, you must always have a good sand wedge ready to pull you back out of a bad rut.  I use comedy for that.  Something witty or self-embarrassing will always get you out of a jam.
  • The Putter:The final shot of each hole is usually with a putter.  This is a precision shot and takes concentration.  You must see the lay of the land and where it curves and dips and rises to make an accurate putt.  The closing statement in any communication is just as important as capturing your audience at the beginning.  The last thought of a meeting is usually the most memorable thing people leave with.  Make it a great thought.

The Clubhouse

At the end of a round, I tend to end up back at the clubhouse.  It’s time to sit back and relax, get rehydrated and look back on the round just played.  I write small notes to myself about certain things I did right or wrong as well as notes on each specific hole.

When your meeting is over, you should go back to your “clubhouse” and write out the good and bad outcomes.  Make notes for yourself so you can look back on them when planning your next meeting.  Most importantly, make sure you DO look at those notes when preparing for the next meeting, as they will come in very handy.

About Stephen Becker

Stephen is an IT asset management leader. He is experienced in software and hardware asset management from an analyst role to a leadership role. Stephen has been instrumental in developing an ITAM program from the ground up as well as taking on complex customers in his current role who are inexperienced in ITAM as a whole and bringing them into a steady state in order to bring value to these companies. He has been published many times and currently holds the CITAM, CSAM and CHAMP certifications from IAITAM. His decades spent in IT have helped him gain an overall view of IT as well as specific disciplines that enable him to interact with all levels of employees and management along with executives in a professional and personal manner.