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3 Steps To Make Your Business Meetings More Productive
A guide to help you prepare and have more productive business meetings.
We've ALL been there... That excruciating moment when you realise you've gone off on a tangent and like a slow motion scene in a movie, the person opposite you slowly starts to yawn but nod their head as if they're attentively listening to you....
The meeting feels like a failure and when it finishes, you try to recall at what point you lost the meeting, but can't quite put your finger on it... Don't worry, by the time you've read this paragraph, tens of thousands of people across the world are going through that exact feeling!
We've done lots of research and debated internally around certain topics, to create a step by step guide that you can use, to help you avoid scenarios similar to above in the future and make your meetings more productive whilst keeping the attendees interactive throughout.
Decide what the main topic or reason for the meeting is and what you would like you and the participants to achieve by the end.
Investing just a few minutes of thinking about what you would like to achieve during the meeting, builds a foundation of clear thinking and execution for productive meetings. It may also lead you to conclude that a meeting is not necessary and a well written email will suffice and save time for both yourself and the attendee/s.
If you decide a meeting is the best option, sit down with no distractions and reverse engineer the meeting from start to finish.
We've written our Top 11 questions to ask yourself below in a structure that starts with the main point (end goal you'd like to achieve) and works backwards towards the intricate details you need to consider before drafting your calendar invite (continue onto Step 2, where we discuss calendar invites in more detail).
- What is the end goal of the meeting?
- How long does the meeting need to be, in order to achieve this end goal?
- Who needs to attend in order to achieve the end goal?
- Do you need to send something for the participants to pre-read or watch, before attending the meeting?
- Would the meeting be more successful if it's online or face-face?
- Are there any documents/presentations needed for this meeting? If so, will you need equipment to plug your laptop into a TV screen, or would screen-sharing online provide a more seamless experience?
- How much notice do participants need, in order to be prepared for this meeting? (Factor that into when you decide the meeting should take place)
- Will a follow up meeting be necessary? If so, when should that be, and who should also attend (bonus tip - It may be other people who don't actually attend the first meeting)
- If a participant/s cancels or postpones with short notice, could you continue the meeting and record it (maybe online would be better) or would you need to reschedule the meeting completely?
- How many topics/actionable items will you cover during the meeting? (This can help build out your agenda (Step 3)
- What next steps do you need to agree upon with the participants before the meeting finishes? (This is very important, so make sure to assign enough time to complete this.
Make the title of the calendar invite descriptive of the outcomes of that meeting.
Set the scene and always have a valid reason for the meeting in the first place.
Labelling a calendar invite as a "Catch Up", "Check-in", "Amy & Steve" or "Follow Up Meeting" doesn't set the tone for a productive meeting that has an outcome linked to it.
Look at the difference below and decide for yourself which meeting you'd rather attend (this example is based on a meeting where you'll view and approve a logo design with your marketing agency and discuss ideas for content at an upcoming event)
1. Liz & Trish - Logo Session
Logo Approval & Upcoming Event Content
2. Logo Design Catch Up
Logo Approval - Agree Upon Next Steps
3. Logo and Event Meeting
Logo - Final Design Approval - Event Content Ideas
Can you see how adding the end goal of the meeting, not only looks more professional, but the person receiving the invite, can plan ahead and have a good idea of what to expect, even if no other context is given? You will know the meeting has been successful, if you achieve the key topics mentioned on the title of the invite. However, there's more to this, and that's where we lead into Step 3.
Add a simple bullet point agenda to the calendar invite, with key items to cover.
There's no worse feeling, that going to a business meeting with no real agenda. This is especially true if there are more than two people in the meeting. It leads to wishy washy conversations, awkward silences or someone gritting their teeth thinking about what they could be doing if they weren't stuck in that meeting.
Lets look at another example and follow the theme from above (viewing and approving a logo design with your marketing agency)
"Liz & Trish - Logo Session" (Title)
(Content in invite)
Let's catch up on Tuesday and take a look at the logo and hopefully approve it.
It would also be great to discuss a few other things regarding flyers or some type of marketing materials for an event we're attending next month.
Could you ask John to join too as I haven't seen him for a while, and he'd be a good resource to discuss some ideas we have about t-shirt suppliers.
Look forward to seeing you then"
"Logo - Final Approval & Upcoming Event Merchandise" (Title)
(Content in invite)
Look forward to signing off on logo design.
We also have an event next month, and need some merchandise to take with us. So I've added some agenda points below, to cover.
Could you ask John to join us? So we can use his knowledge to get actionable next steps on T-Shirt suppliers. Always great to see him too!
- Logo Approval and Sign Off
- Event Next Month (link to event website)
- Brochures, Flyers & Business Cards
- Event Budget: $5k is this enough?
- T-Shirt Suppliers - John
Look forward to a productive meeting!"
Hopefully at this point, you agree that good preparation, clearly defining the end goal of the meeting and working backwards from there, will create a more productive framework when the meeting takes place.
You'll be happy to know that this blog post is part of a series we are running, to help business professionals like you, have more productive meetings. Now you know what to do before the meeting takes place, you'll probably want to get some tips on what to do, from the moment the meeting actually starts. If so, check out our recent blog post about How to Run a More Productive Business Meeting.
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