An Engaging Day with the President

An Engaging Day with the PresidentLast week I was fortunate enough to meet President Obama and I am excited to blog about my experience! I will keep it personal not political and as I share my story, I will weave in 4 lessons on effective engagement.

The lessons are about: the power of face-to-face meeting; how questions are key to engagement; the value of acknowledging the place where you are; and how relationships make amazing things possible.

1. Face-to-Face equals powerful engagement

I will not forget the day I met the President! I was sitting on the stage about 12 feet away from President Obama as he delivered his speech and answered questions. The impact of making eye contact and shaking the President’s hand was huge. The connection people make when they meet face-to-face has incredible bandwidth and meaning. It’s the same when we all meet, virtual meetings can be useful to share information but if want powerful engagement meet face-to-face.

2. Inviting Questions engages people before and during meetings

An Engaging Day with the PresidentOver 60% of the town hall meeting was spent addressing questions from the audience (they start minute 26 on the embedded video below). There were some great questions asked and the audience in Racine looked very engaged from where I was sitting – I know I was! Even before the arrival of the President, I was engaged in conversation with people around me, as we shared with each other what question we would ask. My question was: “How important are small businesses for economic recovery and how is the government going to help small businesses succeed?”

I did not get to ask my question to the President, although he does address this in his speech, but I did get to share with the people around me and also listen to what was important to them. This is Lauren that Obama is shaking hands with and Andrea on my right, thank you to everyone around me for engaging and thanks Julie for sending the photos!

3. Acknowledge where you are

Every rock band knows this! (“Hello Chicago” – band …  “big cheers” – audience!) I’m amazed that I still witness corporate leaders who start talking about information and strategy without acknowledging the place they are in and they miss an opportunity to engage the people in the room. I did not count the number of times the President mentions Racine – it was many. His opening sentence is “It’s good to be back in Racine”, he then connects with us all by talking about the weather (it was a beautiful cool and calm summer day by Lake Michigan) and minute 3 he is still connecting with Racine by sharing that he stopped off for a Kringle (a local pastry) on the way to the meeting.

4. Relationships make amazing things happen

An Engaging Day with the PresidentThis is a personal story of my continued deepening awareness of the value of relationships. If you asked me ten years ago, if I thought I could one day meet the President, I would have believed it possible! At that time I would have imagined that it would have been through some personal achievement, maybe because of some epic software I created! As it turns out the President is still unaware of WeaveThePeople! I met the President because of the relationships in my life, for which I am profoundly grateful.

My friend Kevin is sitting on the stage in the white shirt on the left. I met Kevin when I first moved to Chicago 14 years ago, he invited me to join him on stage – thank you! Kevin’s childhood friend Sean, now a good friend of mine too, was pivotal in enabling me to share this experience with you. Thank you Sean! It was Sean’s sister Shannon who I have met several times, including at Sean’s wedding, who orchestrated the tickets and the seating arrangements on the stage, thank you Shannon!

My personal lesson, for those of you like me who may not yet have realized this, is to engage with every person you meet, it may lead to a lasting relationship and relationships can lead you to amazing places!

I am greatly encouraged about the future of face-to-face meetings. We can all learn from the success of the current president and those that have gone before. Significant time and money is invested to meet people in person, because face-to-face meetings deliver great ROI.

Below is the full video of the town hall meeting for those of you interested in either the economy or the techniques of effective engagement.

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