From the August 2000 issue of Startups

Working from home means no more last-minute meetings in the conference room. If someone wants to meet with you or vice versa, you have to plan ahead. Use the time between setting the date and actually holding the meeting to prepare in advance and make the most out of each meeting.

  • First, determine whether you even need to hold a meeting by describing the purpose of the meeting in one sentence. If you don't have a specific reason for holding a meeting, don't waste your time or your clients'. Instead, find another way to discuss a small issue by using e-mail, the phone or fax. If the purpose of your meeting is clear, go ahead and schedule the meeting.
  • Ask your client to include only those people who can make a contribution to the meeting. Your key contact at a corporation may be the only person who needs to attend, instead of others who will merely monopolize the conversation or try to manipulate everyone else.
  • Bring an agenda to ensure that all your concerns and points are covered. Ask those who will attend the meeting to contribute to the agenda. Then distribute the agenda at least one week before the meeting. Your meeting will run more smoothly if everyone knows in advance what will be discussed.
  • Come to the meeting prepared. After you develop and give the agenda to your client, start a meeting file to store papers relevant to the meeting. Remember to take the file with you to the meeting.
  • Start the meeting on time and follow the agenda as much as possible. Discuss only those items listed on the agenda to keep the meeting on track.
  • Take notes on a legal pad, within your paper-based planner, PDA or laptop. While taking notes, highlight any action you need to take and make sure that action is transferred to your to-do list.
  • Meet electronically with out-of-town clients. Instead of flying or driving out of town to meet with a client, schedule electronic meetings in the comfort of your home office. Whether you hold a teleconference or Web meeting, give each person the opportunity to participate.

It's possible to make meetings more productive if you know the purpose of the meeting, plan ahead and make every minute of the meeting count. And of course the best way to save time on meetings is to avoid them altogether.



Home office expert Lisa Kanarek is the founder of HomeOfficeLife.com and the author of Organizing Your Home Office For Success (Blakely Press) and 101 Home Office Success Secrets (Career Press).<