I’ve tried to assemble a few thoughts about meetings… what is difficult, what works well etc. I have split this post into three sections: before, during and after the meeting.
Before the meeting…
Organising and attending meetings…
The first problem with meetings is that they need arranging. Multiple people’s schedules to synchronise, home and work diaries etc. I find that particularly hard, daunting even, to the extent that I actively shy away from it. I am lucky enough to be able to delegate this to my pa, many of my more junior colleagues are not.
It sounds silly to me even as I write this. However, the second problem is making sure that I actually attend what I have arranged. Being in the right place at the right time can often be an issue, particularly if the meeting has been rescheduled or the location changed. Frequently, my short term memory plays tricks on me regarding what my diary says.
However, I have covered both of these issues separately under diary management, for those who are interested.
Where I am meeting a new client or addressing a new issue, I simply do some background research – I’m pretty us that’s not a dyslexic thing, just common sense!
However, for some meetings preparation is particularly important. If the meeting follows on from earlier activity with the same people or on the same topic, I may need a catalyst to cause my memory to “re-load” all the facts about the given subject. I typically have multiple clients and projects running at the same time, so I often have to change context and tend to need some sort of “trigger” to access the right memory – perhaps a pictures; reviewing some notes (even if they are illegible, the memory of writing them will take me back to the thoughts I was having at the time); or by thinking through or taking thought the subject. If I do this, I usually have better recall than others but it does take planning – possibly the scheduling of time in an appropriately quiet location, before the main meeting etc. If I don’t do this in advance it could be some way in to the meeting before all the facts turn to me – not ideal!
Getting Past Hello
Names! Can’t remember them, so I never leave them to chance. I tend to stop outside a client’s office and re-check their name so that when I reach reception I can still remember it. I also make sure that it is programmed in to my iPhone somewhere so that I can easily access it If I forget, without creating a socially embarrassing situation. Until my diagnosis I was aware that I didn’t use people’s names often. Obviously, I now know why!
I need to prepare if I am presenting and using slides, as I can’t read the words on a slide fast enough to simply look up at the screen whilst talking to remind myself of the next point. so in my own presentations I use pictures instead of words. Unfortunately, my short term memory and reading speed mean that I cant readily read and memorise the content either… so simply recalling it verbatim is not an option. So, I have to actually understand the content and speak from real knowledge, against a backdrop of visuals rather than words. This is a very effective as when I understand something, I’m likely to deliver it in a way that others will understand too. That means I have a high success rate in terms of conveying my point and taking an audience with me… However, getting to this level of understanding is hard and time consuming. In some ways, possibly not compatible with my role.
In the meeting
This is a mixture of “ups” and “downs”. For example:
Don’t be silly, I can’t do that! In my early career I noted that everyone else in the room had a little book in which they made copious notes of everything… after 10 years of trying and failing, I finally realised that when I write my brain switches off. So I don’t bother any more. I draw pictures, builds mind maps talk and listen… but no notes. If I need notes, I take someone with me or write them afterwards.
Another impact of this is more visible to others – I don’t like to take the pen at a flip-chart, unless I’m drawing. I’m lucky to be senior enough that it is easy for me to sidestep the occasional “could someone scribe” request but for those at an early stage in many professions, this is an standard part of day to day life and does pose some challenges.
It’s not all bad you know!
One of the upsides of dyslexia is that I often understand the dynamics of the room better than others, frequently being the first person to spot a potential conflict or misunderstanding. That happens because when others speak a mental picture of their meaning, intent, motivation etc builds up… and it is then very clear if that is “at-odds” with the picture that another person is painting, or whether it is consistent. Oddly, this often presents itself as a feeling that something “doesn’t fit” and needs exploring further or clarifying, rather than clarity of what the issue is. However, experience shows that this sense is rarely wrong and should be followed.
This underpins my ability to avoid conflict, negotiate, build consensus, gain trust etc. I know many of my dyslexic colleagues have a similar experience.
This is a strength for many dyslexics. We are often think in pictures so find it relatively easy to assemble small pieces of information into an overall picture, changing our understanding of the situation as new information is added to the picture. Conflicting information is readily highlighted by this approach – as it simply doesn’t fit right… Even if we are not yet sure why… so more questions will need to be asked to work out what is going on. This style of thinking means we often “feel” our way through the problem with relative ease, without necessarily knowing which way we are going.
Thinking on my feet is a strength. The ability to empathise with others positions and to assemble titbits of information to paint a picture lets me both anticipate and manage the objections of others as well as handling challenges well and without conflict.
After the meeting
Time to write up
Short term memory being what it is, I try to leave half an hour spare after meetings – to write any notes that I need to, capture my actions and things I have agreed. Others would often write these things down in the meeting but as noted above, this is not an option for me.
I’m sure I will improve this post over time. Please do leave comments about your own experience or with any ideas or things that work for you.