Meetings are a drain. They're often unproductive -- owing to poorly organized (or absent) agendas, wayward oversight, and directionless conversation. Even thinking about them sends some into a tailspin.

How do you fix this? Treat each of your meetings like a presentation. The first part is the delivery of the message; the second should include a quick, time-limited Q&A and define action items.

As speaker coach Diane DiResta recommends, you have to follow a handful of simple rules to keep your composure and ensure a powerful, positive effect to every meeting presentation.

Here's how to keep it straight, using the "GLAD" rule:

  • [G]ive them what they need to know, not everything you know. We're often tempted to demonstrate our knowledge or expertise by heaping on a wealth of information. But that just dilutes the main argument. Start by asking: What does your audience need or want to know? Stick to that.
  • [L]ead with "you." Believe it or not, your presentation is not about you -- it's about your captive audience. So give them what they want. Talk about their needs and pain points. Be clear about solutions that affect them. And use "you" language to underscore this effort.
  • [A]ct, and push for action. Be performative -- but only as far as it supports your main point. While numbers vary, experts have noted that 60 to 80 percent of communication comes from body language, so leverage that with gestures that emphasize your key point. Don't flail, though -- that's merely distracting. Also, be sure you close your presentation with a call to action. What can your audience do now that they have this new information?
  • [D]eliver details in the middle, the thesis at the beginning and end. If you start with the nitty-gritty, you'll lose your audience. Grab your audience with a hook (like a story or a compelling statistic), and then share your main thesis. What is your point and why does it matter? After this, you can add in supporting details. Then, close with a memorable punch -- give your audience the thesis one more time, packaged slightly differently so it doesn't sound like you're parroting yourself.

After the presentation, give attendees a set period of time to ask questions. Then set aside the last two or three minutes to determine action items. 

This approach can be used in general conversation, too -- not just in formal presentations. The crux of it is keeping it simple, compelling, and audience-focused. Why would they want to listen? What will they get out of it? If you make the case clear and provide an attractive benefit to action, you'll get them hooked.

Oh, and if you're still worried about presenting in front of people, DiResta has a few quick pointers that are easy to remember:

  • Instead of looking at a sweeping sea of people, focus your attention on one person in the audience for 10 seconds, and then switch to another person. This makes your presentation feel more like a one-on-one conversation.
  • Don't let the "um" derail you. Take pauses between points -- even between sentences, if you need them. The silence is far less uncomfortable to the audience than it may seem to you, and gives you a chance to breathe and collect your thoughts for the rest of your presentation.