Few of us eagerly await meetings, but they are a necessary evil of the business world. In a survey of 1,000 office workers by task management software vendor Igloo, the most common word used to describe meetings is “boring.”
And it’s not just the participants who dread them; meetings are horrible for both sides of the table, says Ted Frank, author of Get to the Heart: How Secrets of Movie Storytelling Can Make Your Presentation Clear, Compelling, and Win a Seat at the Table. âIf you’re going to attend, you have to sit painting after painting,â he says. “And if you show up, you’ve worked your ass off.” You have great information and great ideas that need to be heard, but it’s hard to get your ideas across to a tired group. “
If you’re running the meeting, the fastest way to change the mood and bring your audience to the right time, place, or emotion is to use music, Frank says.
âWhen it’s done right, music is the secret ingredient to a killer presentation,â he says. âIt’s an immediate surprise that signals everyone that it won’t be the same as every other presentation they’ve seen that day. And that relaxes them and opens their minds.
Music is a tool that films use to effectively tell stories, and soundtracks are designed to shape the emotions of audiences throughout the films.
“Music allows films to do what few other mediums can do: hold a person’s attention for a long time,” says Frank. âThe average attention span is 8.25 seconds, but we can sit there for two hours and be wrapped in a movie, all because they handle the tension throughout. To imagine Jaws without music; it wouldn’t be so scary.
What kind of music to play
Business meetings and presentations are aimed at a different audience than movies, so choosing the right songs is important. The type of music you choose should depend on the reaction you want to elicit, and Frank says there are three types:
Open music. If you’re introducing a new concept and want to take people to a new opportunity, Frank suggests using âopen musicâ that sounds spacious, like âTo Be Surprisedâ by Sondre Lerche. âIt’s the kind of music that makes you feel like you’re sitting on the porch on a Sunday that starts out slow and opens up and expands,â he says. âThis music says to the listener, ‘Now we are entering a new place. It’s time to change gears.
Hold the music. Holding the music âholdsâ you in place and creates a feeling of stress, Frank says. âCreating tension in your message releases cortisol in the listener,â he says. “The stress hormone that makes people focus and feel like they need to be there.” Kate Bush’s âThis Woman’s Workâ is one example.
Power the music. If you want to prepare people for the action, play some “propelling music,” says Frank, who likes to use the Isley Brothers’ “It’s Your Thing”. âThis is usually done at the end of the presentation to reach the climax,â he says. “It is very triumphant.” It also plays into science, Frank adds. âWhen you listen to music propels, oxytocin is released as you grow up to the ark,â he says. âIt’s the inspiration hormone that makes us feel open to new ideas, want to be better, and do better. “
When to press “Play”
You don’t want to sound like a DJ handling the situation, and you don’t want to complicate your meeting too much by having to manage an iPhone at the same time, Frank says. There are two easy places to include music in your meeting.
First, play some music as the participants enter the room. âYou don’t have to deal with a whole lot – just press play – and it has the same effect as when you walk into a restaurant or store with great music playing: it goes back to the ‘atmosphere. “
Frank says anything that is universally loved, upbeat, and positive is a good choice. He loves the songs of Michael Jackson, Pharrell Williams and Al Green. âIt takes all the fear out of the meeting attendees,â Frank says. âMost of us expect to be bored in a meeting. Music can make you much more open to hearing ideas. It makes you feel refreshed and relaxed. You instantly know it won’t be another two hour meeting with graphics on one screen.
Plus, if you’re using video or slides, incorporate music in short bursts, says Frank. âVideos are a great container for music,â he says. “It makes the video much more efficient and seems to flow quickly.”
Videos are also good vehicles for music because the sound can be contained in the video. âYou don’t have to manage it and it seems appropriate,â says Frank.
While you can play music at the end of your meeting, be careful, Frank says. âMeetings often end with a question-and-answer session, and turning on a song might sound too contrived,â he says.
If you have a small, confidential meeting with less than 10 people, Frank says you can use your own personal playlist. However, during a large presentation, you will need permission to use an artist’s work. âIf you want to use Taylor Swift, you’ll have to start filling out paperwork to get permission,â he says. “Stock music sites also have a lot of options.”
If all goes well, you will start to see the emotion in the audience that you want to evoke. âThey should be wrapped up in what you say,â Frank says. “You will see eyes wide open and gaze fixed, and you might see heads dancing.” “