Meetings can be like leeches that suck the very life out of us. How can we ensure we get the most out of our customer meetings and use the opportunity to enhance our relationships?
Meetings can be the bane of our lives. When I was in the corporate world, my schedule was stacked with customer meetings that made me feel I was stuck between a rock and a hard place. Attendance of those meetings was both social and recognition that you were valued, and had a part to play. Information is all-powerful and not to be at a meeting when something important is announced would be seen as a personal disaster. So you went.
The reality is that most of those meetings were an entire waste of everyone’s time. Why? very little was achieved.
They were mostly an exchange of what was going on rather than agreeing to action and role sorts and to who should do what. There was no derived action plan.
The number one reason for unproductive meetings is lack of preparation.
In our business world today, speed and movement appear to have become the main measure of success rather than quality of content. So we consume media more, travel more, tweet more, e-mail more and multi-task more. We seem to have less time to think or prepare and yet that is exactly what we should be doing MORE!
So is there anything we can do about this? Absolutely. We need to have a process for meeting preparation, which is easy to do, repeatable and effective. Here are 6 ways you can stop meetings being a complete waste of time.
1. Ensure there’s an agenda with objectives and a deliverable outcome
Creating an expected outcome makes it clear why the meeting is necessary and its purpose. Most people get an agenda out, but few state what the outcome should be.
2. Restrict Participants
Based on the objectives and deliverables, make sure we invite only those that can either make a decision on the subject or are directly affected. The effectiveness of a meeting declines in direct proportion to the number of people in attendance.
Have pre-meeting involving team members that are directly involved with the project. Discuss potential customer expectations and objections; agree roles and what the Best Action Outcome should be as well as The Minimal Acceptable Action, so there is a measure of the meetings success.
4. Minimize PowerPoint
Make the meeting discussion led. So many meetings get taken up with the quest to finish the carefully prepared, fully animated and highly imaged content of the deck, that there is no time for discussion.
5. Stay on track
Constantly refer to both the agenda and the deliverables to ensure the discussion stays with addressing the subject of the meeting.
6. Ensure there’s a summary with next steps
Someone needs to take notes and then share a very clear Action Required or Next Steps section, which is time-bound and person specific. Otherwise nothing will happen after the meeting. Every meeting should result in some action having to be taken.
I know, it sounds obvious doesn’t it. It’s common sense and is respected by customers as being good business practice and professional. It helps build relationships and better productivity.
Have you got an easy to do, repeatable and effective meeting planning process that you use?