Love them or hate them, meetings are an important part of business.
While there are many people who are happy to work over the phone, by Skype or on email, there will always be clients, business associates and suppliers who’ll want to do business face-to-face.
While we can’t eliminate them altogether, we can ensure that our meetings are as productive as possible by qualifying and conducting them efficiently. So to help here are five tips for more productive meetings.
1. Always have an agenda
An agenda specifically outlines what you need to discuss and accomplish in the meeting or on the call. For it to work effectively, it should be clearly communicated ahead of time so everyone knows the purpose of the meeting or call and what needs to be covered.
Don’t feel you have to create a formal run sheet to send to everyone you’re meeting with though. Not only would this be too time consuming, you’re also likely to scare people off. Instead, do it in a friendly and informal manner by sending a meeting confirmation email that says:
Just confirming our [time] meeting on [date] at [location] about [what you want to discuss]. I look forward to meeting/talking to you then.”
2. Never go to a meeting if you don’t know the purpose
It seems obvious, but attending purposeless meetings is something that happens quite frequently in business, especially under the hope of getting a sale.
I’m sure you’ve experienced it; someone says, “Let’s catch up for a coffee and chat more”. You politely agree thinking they must be interested in your products or services. Though two hours and a coffee later and you find out you were just chatting and have no idea what the point was in meeting. Do yourself a favour and always clarify the purpose.
3. Always set an end time
Setting an end time not only prevents meetings from going excessively over time, it also keeps everyone accountable to staying productive in the meeting. For this reason always set an end time – and unless extremely productive or profitable, stick to it.
4. Allow time for small talk
One of the biggest mistakes you can make in a meeting is to skip over the chit-chat that helps to build rapport.
For the super-efficient among us this step can often seem like a waste of time, but the fact is, making small talk is extremely productive. For successful business relationships to form you also need to relate on a personal level, so don’t skip over this step, just limit the time you spend in it.
5. Be clear and specific on what needs to happen next
At the end of each meeting you should have a clear and actionable list of what you need to do next, for who and by when. It could be as simple as sending through a “thank you for your time” email or it could be a quote, proposal, questionnaire, contact or other item you’ve discussed.
Also make a list of what you need from the other person (or people) so you can send a reminder in your “thank you for your time” email.
Do you have any tips for keeping meetings productive?