5 strategies for Your Online Meetings & Negotiations

1. Assign responsibility for Your meeting process = appoint a moderator

As explained in my previous post, not all meetings are meant for “equality” for a variety of reasons.

A moderator helps participants focus, and guarantees security about the process and rules. Depending on the rules of the meeting, no one can speak without the moderator’s consent, and shy contributors are being nudged to share with his active invitation. This is even more important for online meetings, given the lack of body cues and failing audio or video quality issues.

Tip: Make sure you write down the expected outcome together with the expected time for the meeting. Don´t hesitate to reiterate or even ask somebody what you´re all here for if people get lost.

2. Set a meeting objective & make sure, people know it

Call it whatever you like: “Agenda”, “Reason to meet” or “Outcome expected”, but make sure there is a clear goal to your meeting, and people know about it. If you want to socialize that´s fine, just make sure everyone is on board, lest you lose your credibility once you want to achieve any substantial discussion.

Tip: Make sure you write down the expected outcome together with the expected time for the meeting. Don´t hesitate to reiterate or even ask somebody what you´re all here for if people get lost.

3. Distinguish between “required”, “helpful”, and “tolerated” participants

Inviting everybody remotely interested feels tempting. People perceive you as being active on the one hand, and making sure nobody feels left out on the other. Especially when working remotely for an extended time, as we do have to do now during the Covid-19 lock down, it might also feel nice to getting face time with people that you are used to having around.

However, there is one big problem: Meetings don´t accomplish much when many people are taking part who don´t actively contribute towards the meeting objective. If there are many people in the online meeting, many feel obliged to contribute anything in order to justify their presence.

Tip: To solve that quagmire, introduce roles, like “required”, “helpful” or even “tolerated” with definite expectations linked to them. People can “come by” without feeling an urge to disturb.

Tip: Introduce roles, like “required”, “helpful” or even “tolerated” with definite expectations linked to them. People can “come by” without feeling an urge to disturb.
Don´t hesitate to play with the roles and actively call out the change of a role, e.g. from “required” to “tolerated”, e.g. when participants played their part and can´t contribute any longer. This might also help them leave and go to something more productive than losing the urge to linger.

4. Conclude with meeting notes & simple/clear follow-up terms

Many meetings end with vague smiles from all participants, happy to go back to their To-Do lists.

It is the your responsibility as moderator to summarize and point out meaning and action for each point tackled of the agenda. Like a good journalist, the key task is to spell out headlines and identify action items.

Tip: Summarizing the results in the end either in writing, or by recording the final oral summary of the moderator can help making sure decisions are being followed up and remembering which person is responsible for its delivery.

5. Agree on basic regulatory framework. Start with mute/unmute and video/no video protocol

It’s important for you to show early that rules are set and enforced for everybody, if you don´t want people to settle for the easiest, but mostly worst, option. Start with technical issues, and follow up with whatever is needed for the group to be efficient.

  • Default to video: It’s easier to pick up facial clues and avoid interruptions when you can see your counterpart
  • Mute your audio when there are more than four people: it is nearly impossible to avoid background noise which wears everybody down. If there is no lively discussion between just a few people, mute your mic and spare everybody the noise
  • Clarify: as soon as possibly that contributions are only welcome if they are advancing the discussion towards the stated aim. Online meetings require very clear communication to keep everyone on task.

Of course, one of the biggest pitfalls is to have somebody of the team being responsible for “rule enforcement”. It is hard to stop colleagues from repeating themselves the third time when you might need their support at a parallel project.

Tip: Have people moderate meetings who don´t have to worry about their appearances and can stay neutral. Sometimes HR will be able to help. Best results (and shortest meeting times) will be achieved when getting support by outside professional (online) moderators.

Group Coaching Negotiation: Ask Amin Anything

Ask Any Negotiation Question in
“Ask Amin Anything”

The Online format of group Coaching helps you find the ideal approach to your next negotiation and get inspired by the input of other negotiators, whether in sales, meetings, presentations or within organizational politics

Are you interested in situations and roadblocks people face, and want to learn more about how these difficulties can be overcome? Do you want to profit from the motivation and inspiration inherent in a group exchange under professional supervision?

Do you appreciate the opportunity to stay updated on negotiation matters once a month?

For all these situations you´ll find a good opportunity in “Ask Amin Anything”. In this monthly group Coaching all possible (and sometime impossible) cases are being looked at, and questions asked like e.g.:

  • How do I deal with the shark negotiator in my team?
  • What can I answer my client on “You are too expensive”?
  • How do I influence people if I don´t want to become a manipulator?

Dealing with people is very multifaceted: Argumentation, feelings, communication, goal setting and tracking… it makes sense to answer one or two questions. Or better: ask them and have me answer them. Let´s strategize, prepare, and improve together.

Agenda (every 1st of month)

09:50 Please come in and check your technical requirements

10:00 Start:
10:05 Review:
How did my negotiations go last month? Do I get closer to my objectives this year? What are my thoughts and feelings on that ( 2-3 Min/participant)

10:25 Cases:
Are there open questions I´d like to raise? What kind of questions would I like to pose and discuss in the Group setting.

10:50 Outlook:
Which goals am I setting for myself? What are my take-aways out of this setting?

11:00 Finish

Setting up (online) meetings right

Meetingsmoderation

The biggest pitfalls in (online) meetings

YOUR FIRST STEP: Choose the basic Setup for your meeting

When you are setting up a meeting, you do have to take a basic, but very important choice right in the beginning: Will the meeting be

1) “all equals“, meaning that all participants are on the same level and can contribute to process & content, or will the meeting be

2) moderated, i.e. will you or somebody else be the Meeting Master conducting it and be responsible for the process.

This setup has a huge influence on the entire meeting, its pitfalls and its outcome.

All Participants have the same status – A good meeting choice?

Unmoderated Meeting

There are enticing advantages of setting up a meeting of equals

  1. Equality feels right.
  2. Any member can change the path any time. If participants are knowledgeable and experienced in using moderation tools, they can suggest appropriate tools, like One-Point-System, query by acclamation, mind mapping or topic memory.
  3. It is easy – no need to prepare the process and can be set up in no time.

Meeting Tip
Use unmoderated meetings only with small participant numbers (2-4). They work best with result-oriented, meeting experienced, well prepared and conscientious team members. Best for creative and open-ended meetings (“Let´s just pick our brains”).

There are also several pitfalls of setting up a meeting of equals

  1. Participants tend to talk over each other so ideas get lost
  2. People are interrupting each other
  3. Speaking times might differ widely because “John” really likes himself talking which leads to just a few using up all the speaking time
  4. “Sally” abstains from sharing her good ideas
  5. Ideas are repeated several times 
  6. Meeting Rules are continuously broken
  7. Nobody bothers summarizing interim or final results, so that plenty of meetings end with no clear outcome

Moderated Meeting

Your team enjoys quite a few advantages by having your meeting actively moderated

  1. Have one person (the “moderator”) responsible for bringing the process forward, not only his own arguments
  2. Improve the group dynamics by having a dedicated “rule enforcer”
  3. Have the moderator structure the talking session with clear instructions given
  4. Have somebody actively inviting “feeble” or “disinterested” participants and their ideas out
  5.  Have a dedicated person to summarize, structure, break and bring the process forward

Meeting Tip
Be sure to appoint somebody to lead and structure a meeting if the discussion points are controversial or heated. Also make sure there is a moderator if you are expecting less results-oriented or unprepared participants.
It is also recommendable to have somebody moderate (in the truest sense of the word) if participants face big disparities in experience and/or agreeableness.
Best method for result-oriented, time sensitive meetings of any size (“Let´s not waste time nor miss out on good ideas”).

If you are moderating, put the objective of the meeting down in writing. If you are a team member yourself and have vested interest in a specific outcome, pass the buck. You can´t win that one.

Buch Der Meistermoderator


Presseartikel
Presseartikel “Der schnellste Weg zum Meistermoderator”

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You are negotiating all day, every day

Man and woman negotiating

Covid 19 & Home office: Whether you are aware of it or not, you negotiate all day

The longer Covid-19 forces us to work from home, the more obvious it might become that online & offline, in the house and outside, you better be prepared to negotiate well if you don´t want to risk a sudden explosion. You can put of negotiations only so long before people they explode right in your face.

People are often amazed when they learn how often they are negotiating without realizing it (see biggest mistakes in negotiations). This in itself doesn´t constitute any disadvantage, after all, people do all sorts of things without being fully aware what they are doing is actually called.

However, not recognizing when you are negotiating is a big disadvantage for two reasons:

  1. You are making your life more difficult than it needs be:
    If you don´t understand what game you are playing (the negotiation game!) you won´t be able to use it´s rules to your advantage and are often left out feeling dumbfounded by unexpected turns. When the whole family might be bound to stay together for an increased time you should face and negotiate conflicting needs to avoid catastrophe.
  2. You are not balancing interests and thus risk relationships breaking down:
    Understanding and using negotiation strategies & tactics makes achieving your aim, but also the aims of people around you, so much easier. You not only can convince people, but might want to do so investing much less energy and taking into consideration their options. That might start with “simple” (yet not easy) communication skills like listening skills

So, when are you negotiating?

“A negotiation is an interaction in order to influence the behavior of at least one other person, whereby different interests are reconciled and brought about in the developing process. This definition shows that the term can be widely applied. In other words: We often negotiate without conscious realization. The side discussion in the company kitchen to arrange who buys coffee when is a negotiation, just like the phone conversation with your partner to decide on the evening’s entertainment.

Definition taken from Master Negotiator, page 20

This is much less complicated that is looks like:

Whenever diverging interests need to arrive at a common conclusion, whether it be sales prices, a holiday venue or a company takeover, people have to be influenced in order to push interests through. To clarify, this does not mean to the detriment of the other side nor suggest unconscious influence.”

Negotiating without realizing it

Anything you might want somebody else to do which you can´t force them to, will become a negotiation, if they won´t anyway do it. The key is the phrase “diverging interests”.

  • Want your Mum to cook lunch later than she has planned?
    You´re in a NEGOTIATION
  • Want your kid to stop watching TV without screaming?
    You´re in a NEGOTIATION
  • Want your spouse to bring down the trash more often? NEGOTIATION
    You´re in a NEGOTIATION
  • Want to get the fresh bunch of parsley from the market stand, not the old one?
    You´re in a NEGOTIATION

I could continue the list… basically every time the other side has a free will to not grant your wish, you will have to somehow interact with them to get your way. If you can´t order, force or otherwise just make them do like you wish (luckily that´s not readily possible), you will likely need to start a negotiation.

This means, all the rules of negotiation come into play, like preparation, strategic planning, communication skills etc. Knowing and applying them might save you a lot of energy and bring about your goals when working and living with other people.

If you want me to quickly help you use lead better negotiations, no matter the topic, let´s have a call

Want to read more on negotiation, conflict resolution and moderation?

Do you want me to (online) moderate your meeting or discussion?

How one can learn negotiating?

Reaching your negotiation objectives

The Master Negotiator Bestseller Amin Talab

Setting, understanding and pursuing a goal:
1 of the 6 essential strengths of the Master Negotiator

His unconditional orientation towards his own, but also his partner’s objectives, is one of the main success factors for the Master Negotiator (this article is an excerpt from the book “The Master Negotiator”).

By neglecting his own objectives, he will hardly achieve them. Ignoring opposing objectives will leave his negotiation partner little reason to come to an agreement.

Preparing well also means being aware of one´s own aims and the partner’s presumed objectives and interests by asking very specific questions:

  • What do I really want?
  • How much of this do I really have to achieve?
  • Which parts could I abandon the easiest?
  • Why do I want exactly that outcome?
  • What personal, organizational and other interests are involved?

Already, by briefly considering possible principles, character of the negotiation partner and viability of expectations, a lot of time and effort will be saved later on.

However, the most important homework is specifying one’s objective. You must be very clear on what you really need to exit the negotiation with. When formulating objectives, one has to be clear about its main tasks:

  •     The objective determines the journey
  •     Time efficiency
  •     Offers can only be rated by reference to objectives
  •     The aim legitimizes the negotiation process
  •     Competency requirements become clear
  •     Clarity of objectives fosters the creation of options

It is useful to formulate a rather limited negotiation objective and build in “alarms bells” that force you to stop the negotiation and reconsider your situation, given certain outcomes. But be careful. If you limit yourself too much, you might find it hard to develop creative solutions with the little development space left.

achieved completely

all major parts

satisfying

minimum

not acceptable

catastrophe

 

Goal Setting and Attainment

As an “negotiation joker” – advisor and “ghost negotiator“, it is my task in preparations to come up with ideas and analyse strategies. Sometimes, time is rather limited and I only meet negotiators on the day of the negotiation round.

After getting a first overview of the strategy, I generally like to put forward a very simple question: “What is the specific aim of this upcoming round?” It is startling that in 7 out of 10 cases, I do not get a satisfactory answer, but something along the lines of “I want to get out of this as much as I can” or “I am not sure what I can abandon. I want to see first what the other side is offering.” Naturally, problems are bound to happen.

If one does not know what port one is steering for, no wind is favorable to him.

Lucius A. Seneca, 5 BC- AD 65

Even if objectives were set initially, one sometimes loses sight of them in arduous, lengthy proceedings. However, objectives determine the success of the negotiation. The negotiation is not meant to be an end in itself; working on objectives is the central element in the preparation.

At first sight, flexibility in the negotiation and the consideration of the negotiation partner´s wishes seem to contradict the attainment of one´s goals. Often, this contradiction can be solved by uncovering the hidden interests behind the stated positions.[1] In order to stay flexible, it is crucial to know one´s own interests and motivation and be able to prioritize.

An experiment proves the dependence of the outcome on the formulation of the objective[2]:

In a classic buy-sell transaction, the negotiators were given a specific objective. Reaching that objective meant being able to continue and go to a “bonus round”.

The first group was given the objective of $2.10 to continue. The second group was given $6.10 as the objective to be able to continue. Both groups were given the same minimum price (walk-away point) and both groups thought the objective was realistically achievable. Why else would there be a bonus round?

A look into the results is most revealing: The group with the higher qualification objection achieved an average of $ 6.25 whereas the second group only bargained for an average $ 3.35! The sales price was doubled with identical conditions apart from the given objectives!


[1] For the distinction see above Interest: the lighthouse in the negotiation

[2] Sydney SIEGEL and Lawrence FOURAKER “The Effect of Level of Aspiration on Differential Payoff“

Chess, Strategy & Silence

Kineke Mulder conducted this interview for Chess unlimited*

What brings the “Master Negotiator” to playing chess?

As Keynote Speaker and Consultant my main tool is the spoken language. For a change, I enjoy interaction without having to talk. Ideally, this is considered polite when playing chess.

Strategic dialogue without spoken words is exciting and leads to be in the very moment. I can focus on the position on the board and be with my myself and my thoughts, contrary to my professional responsibilty, where I always do have to have the interests of my participants and the development of the group process at the top of my mind.

Are there other reasons for favoring chess as much as you do?

The chess game offers lots of advantages for travelling professions: I can take it with me to seminar or congress venues anywhere in the world easily. It also is easy to find chess partners, as you don´t need to find somebody with a particular mindset or even talk the same language.

Playing chess also is a time for me absent of the responsibility for other peoples´ success. In contrast to being asked for my expert opinion in my Negotiation Jokers and trainings, it doesn´t matter who is the expert and who is student. Playing chess sometimes you learn, sometimes your opponent, or, in the best case, both from each other.

Amin from Wien in front of his books

To your last tournament in Vienna you brought your children with you?

Yes. My twin daughters got interested in chess from age 6, to my delight! It activates the brain and fosters skills like anticipating enemy moves and thinking strategically. My girls are in general pretty curious, ask lots of questions, also philosophical and cultural ones.

You just started an intercultural project together?

In my opinion, animating young minds to think critically and independently is of utmost importance. This is particularly true, when you take the current societal and political development of pitting groups against each other, migration and the search for meaning for so many people into account. These are all topics that have a lot to do with negotiation in a more extensive sense, of being and dealing with each other, of balancing interests to reach your goals.

With this in mind we started a special project on intercultural tolerance: Together with other families and their kids we will create the book The Little FreeThinker, with images and texts coming from “little, free, open minds”. We are in the Crowdfunding phase right now and hope to find enough support to print a colorful example for crosscultural team work, and maybe even fund a website on the topic.

Find more on the project here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/amintalab/little-freethinker

Our intercultural Book Project Video (5 minutes)

Thank you for the invitation and our conversation!

My pleasure. Good luck for you also as freelancer negotiation and selling your services, as well as with Chess Unlimited. You create a lot of pleasure by organizing very intercultural chess meetings in Vienna.

*The original was posted on https://chess.mulder.at/amin-aus-wien-a/

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