3 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Meetings
What many people don't realize is that a successful meeting requires preparation beforehand as well as a thoughtful follow-up.
For account and success managers, there are few feelings better than having a satisfied client on your hands — and that tends to happen more when the client feels that their time is well spent.
The average manager at my company typically meets with clients for at least three hours during the week, which nets out to more than one full month spent in meetings nonstop each year. Proper preparation could make this time significantly better, yet many don't take the time to reflect and ensure time is well spent. But, if you leave room to prepare and reflect, productivity will follow.
Meetings are sometimes thought of as a solution for teamwork. Does the team dynamic feel off? Throw a meeting on the calendar. Need to chat through something in more depth? Meeting time! But people often show up to meetings lacking important context, like what the purpose is or who will be leading the meeting. Sometimes, they can walk away more confused than when they got there. In this case, a meeting can have little-to-no (or even negative) impact.
What many people don't realize is that a successful meeting requires preparation beforehand as well as a thoughtful follow-up. This approach helps get everyone on the same page, which improves the overall meeting experience and ultimately crystallizes the outcome. Here are a few things to think about before booking that next meeting.
1. Prepare diligently
People often forget that preparing for a meeting can be just as important as the meeting itself. Regardless of the topic or the attendees, meetings should be intentional — and that intention should be demonstrated through preparation, goal setting and alignment.
From the outset, everyone in the meeting should be on the same page, regardless of whether it's the first meeting or a continuation. It helps to put the goals in writing as soon as possible — which could take the shape of a brief email reminding attendees of the focus of the meeting or a more formal agenda sent ahead of time. This is an opportunity to show the client that the meeting is intentional, the objectives are clear and the relationship will be productive.
2. Treat calendar invites like currency
An unsuccessful meeting is grounded in a fear of wasted time. When you send out a calendar invite, you're asking for access to an incredibly precious shared resource — time — and wasting that time can potentially harm relationships internally with your team or externally with clients. At the core, meetings are all about using the allotted time for mutual engagement. The key is to get everyone invested in the conversation and maintain that same level of engagement throughout the meeting.
To achieve this, it's critical that the goal is stated upfront and shared beforehand. After introductions and catching up, share what you understand to be the desired goal for the session. If it's a group session, choose a point person to do so. If you can get everyone to agree on the goal upfront, the path is clear for everyone at the table — virtual or not — to participate in the conversation.
Notes or an agenda can also help guide the conversation while also providing you with the opportunity to make note of the points that the client finds important. Be clear about who is taking notes either by doing it yourself or delegating. During those longer meetings, having a paper trail of previous conversations and any action items will make it easier to check in and gauge whether or not the team is on track for the goals you initially set.
It's also important to leave enough time for the tangents. Carving out windows for questions or the chance to dive into something that the client is curious about will boost your understanding of what's important to them without feeling the pressure of the clock.
3. Set aside dedicated time to follow up
As you're wrapping up, make sure to take the temperature of the group. Check in and see if everyone feels like they've achieved those agreed-upon goals or made satisfactory progress. It's easy to forget or skip this element, but it's important for the next steps.
The biggest mistake post-meeting is telling yourself to let the information marinate and do the follow-up later. I always block off time on my calendar after a meeting and dedicate that window to write a rough draft of a follow-up note to ensure it gets done while the content is still fresh in my mind.
After following up, documentation is key, too. Parse through your notes to pull out important metrics or action items and document them in your team's shared system so all attendees have access to them afterward. Don't let those key data points and immediate tasks get lost in the shuffle.
Productive meetings are just good business
The best string of client meetings that I've been involved with was a success largely because the client and I both did our homework beforehand and afterward. Because we both put the time in outside of the meeting, it allowed us to focus on having a fun, engaging conversation that met expectations on both ends. To some, this might sound like additional busy work in the short term, but down the road, you and your team will be thankful that you put in the time upfront.
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