Whether you’re meeting with a potential client, a current client, a colleague or even your staff, sometimes, those meetings go off the rails and leave you scratching your head as to what the purpose of that meeting really was. So, to improve the productivity and ultimately, the success of your business meetings, I have looked to the CarolRoth.com contributor network of business owners, experts, advisors and entrepreneurs to provide their best tips. Their answers are presented below in no particular order.
You may notice some similar ideas, but I kept them separate, as something in the way one is framed may resonate differently with you.
1. Feed Them First
The meetings that always caught my attention were the ones that included something to eat. If for nothing else, it shows that you care about your employees and their well being!
2. Frame the Meeting
Business meetings have a better chance for success when you set them up for success. Frame the meeting; frame your day. Think in advance about how you want the meeting to go, how you want to show up, the level of energy you will bring to the meeting, how you will engage the other person, and how you will navigate around any challenges in the conversation. Framing the meeting in advance plants seeds for success.
3. 10 Min Meetings Most Effective
Streamline communications efforts during a daily company-wide meeting called 'The Daily Huddle'. The stand-up huddle is a meeting that lasts for no more than 10 minutes. Short daily meetings keep companies focused on the same strategic goals, ensure timely answers to pressing questions, and enforce accountability because everyone knows what everyone else is up to. Extremely short, frequent meetings are important to improve cross-departmental communication challenges. This works for clients, too.
4. Start With Their End Game
Prior to the meeting, I look at the reason for the meeting and what is the optimal outcome for the person I am speaking with.
Then, I look at my desired outcome and the best compromise for both parties.
Once this is done, I come straight out with the issue and the potential compromised solution for both parties.
This then changes the meeting into- is that the best compromise available to deal with the problem or can we find a much better solution to the issue that works for both?
5. Don't Let Great Ideas Escape
Introverts are notorious, and I'm an innie so I know, for leaving the meeting with their best ideas unvoiced. Build in some way to get these thoughts out into the open in your meeting. Small group brainstorming, submitting written suggestions or the old-fashioned "let's go around the room" all work. Using ground rules that allow all to be heard helps to create a more receptive meeting environment. As a leader, you must train folks to give even quiet thinkers a moment to express themselves.
6. Ask This Question
During the meeting, ask your client about their "big hairy audacious goal". This is their place of passion, their ultimate purpose. Once you've identified their passion, show them how you can serve their passion and move their dream forward.
7. Get Personal and Get Positive
Who says that a meeting can't be productive and help everyone in the group connect? Start every meeting with a 2 minute positive check in. Give each person attending a chance to share positively about what they are proud of or what's working. Let them praise, acknowledge or appreciate someone on the team or something that's working. Encourage authentic communication and allow someone to "pass" if nothing comes to mind.
8. Ready Those Documents
If you hope to get any specific results out of a meeting, ideally you will meet by phone, Skype, email or some other means in advance and iron out any details required in order to prepare documents. That's how heads of state do things, although their minions usually handle the pre-meetings.
9. Have an End Game
Never hold a meeting unless you have an outcome in mind. What do you want to accomplish? Your job is to steer the conversation so it addresses your problem or challenge. Stay on topic. You must control the meeting so it is productive for you and your attendees. Have some specific goals in mind. Don't try and solve a bevy of problems. Stick to one or two priorities so you can devote the maximum time to your concerns.
10. Keep it Focused!
Business meetings can be subject to "scope creep". When I was a computer programmer, often projects we were working on would start "creeping" when items got added on to our list of tasks. Meetings can be exactly the same - topics get expanded, discussions get longer and more diverse, and soon, nothing much gets accomplished. Prepare the agenda ahead of time and keep it focused - that way you can be more productive and get things decided and then done, instead of just discussing them!
11. FOCUS, FOCUS, FOCUS
What do many meetings lack...FOCUS!!! Too many distractions- eliminate them. Have everyone put their phones on the table in front of them. No more playing away under the table out of no one's view, really. Keep the meeting focused by having no more than 3-5 topics to address in a one hour time frame. Any more than this risks several items not being addressed. And finally, to FOCUS, always have an agenda and send it out at least 24 hours prior to the meeting. Now go and FOCUS!!!
12. Be Selective About the Time
When are you at your peak? For some people, this will be early morning, while for others, it may be right after lunch or later in the day. Figure out your best time and then, be selective about when you schedule your business meetings.
13. Keep it Real
For a successful initial business meeting, do one thing well...LISTEN. To me, keeping it real means managing expectations. First, I need to understand the client's needs. I can't do that well, and potentially provide solutions, unless I listen. Don't go in with services to sell until you understand what services could be of value.
14. Make it Worth Their While
If you are calling a meeting, be sure there is a good reason for it. If it is one-on-one with a client, then have your presentation all set to go. Do your homework- know their business and offer them a real, usable solution. If the meeting is for colleagues, make it comfortable and informative. If it's going to go more than a half hour, offer beverages (water/coffee is sufficient). Send out an agenda at least 24 hours in advance. Give everyone time to prepare their portion. Build community and by-in.
WIFT: What's in it for THEM? Build every meeting agenda and every proposal around a VALUE PROPOSITION. Always ask yourself what's in it for each of the stakeholders you are meeting with--whether they are clients, suppliers or co-workers and employees. It's never about you. Ask yourself what you would want out of the meeting if you were the other participants. How can you make it meaningful to them? Then deliver that--on a silver platter...literally or figuratively.
16. The Meeting IS Printed
Put the agenda in PRINTED handout form. EVERYONE gets a copy AND that way, EVERYONE who has an assignment from the meeting is held to a DISCERNIBLE level of accountability. When presenting items, cover bases of Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How. When reporting back, have relevant points at the top of the report such as Date, Subject of report, etc. so the individual receiving info is not confused. It saves confusion, enhances your CREDIBILITY, and keeps things moving FORWARD. It avoids OOOPPSS I FORGOT!
17. Think on Your Feet
Often, people go into meetings with preconceived notions of what a client wants and needs. How well do you think on your feet? Listening and asking questions and learning how to improvise will create the most success in meetings. Practice with a colleague before your meetings and stretch those muscles just like an athlete.
18. Prepare & Listen
Two things will make any meeting more productive. First, prepare. Don't be lazy by just depending on others. Do your homework and come in with a number of well thought out ideas that show you are invested in finding the best possible solution. And second, and this is usually harder for people, be quiet and listen. If you can discipline yourself to do this, you will allow natural feedback to be expressed by others, which will better guide you as to what is best for everyone.
19. Play the Bar Game!
No, not drinking, though I am sure some people may want to do that during a business meeting. So people are not distracted by their phones or PDs, have them turn them off, or silenced in the case of a colleague having small children. Stack the phones in the middle of the table. In the Bar Game, the first person to check their phone pays. In a business meeting, the first person to check their phone, for anything other than an emergency, provides food for the next meeting.
20. Meet Expectations for All
Do you have an agenda? For meetings, an agenda is highly positive. Get an agreement from everyone in the room as to expectations. Share your proposed agenda. Then, ask each if they have changes to suggest. Your agenda is similar to delivering a proposal. Cover the first topic by gaining agreement from everyone. Repeat the process through the entire agenda. At the end, thank everyone for their input and time. Before departing, ask for the next steps and appointment to find the Smooth Sale!
Whether you are dealing with a potential client, referral partner, member of the press, or someone who could hire you, always remember: T.C.M. Every person you meet, no matter what their status is, is in need of either more time, more connections, or more money. If you figure out which of those three will make an impact in that person's life, your meeting will be more memorable. Ask questions and find out what someone's T.C.M. index is and they'll be sure to remember you and the meeting fondly.
22. Cancel Your Weekly Meeting
Want a productive staff meeting? Then cancel your next staff meeting and look at alternatives like instant messaging and inner department meetings. Sometimes, all-hands get-together meetings are necessary, but most of the time an instant message to the team can suffice for news announcements and individual department meetings are all the staff needs. It's rare that an office has enough *big* news to justify a daily or weekly staff meeting.
23. The Secret to a Good Meeting
Prepare an agenda. Never go into a meeting without knowing exactly what you are going to discuss step by step. When you are prepared with an agenda, you will be far more confident and organized. This will impress your potential client and they will want to hire you.
24. The Best Business Meeting-EVER
The best business meetings I have hosted or attended all include(d) a good old-fashioned BRAIN STORMING SESSION! Whether problem-solving or generating new sales ideas, all those creative minds assembled in one room results in a plethora of never-thought-of ideas.
Thanks to: Kathleen Anderson.
25. Set the Tone!
My tip for having a productive meeting is to start by setting the tone. Open the meeting boldly. With clients, I always go with some version of, "OK we are here to work, let’s dig in." This is an opportunity to be a leader. And it’s your opportunity to get something done. Along these same lines, acknowledge the elephant in the room. There usually is one. It could have to do with anything – a weakness in the case, a conflict between principals, money, etc. Do NOT dance around the tough stuff.
26. Trade Show: Breakfast Meetings
When you meet with a customer or potential customer at a morning breakfast meeting, it does not interfere with your exhibiting or attendance at a trade show or conference. It is also easier to arrange, as lunch and dinner plans are often made in advance.
27. Act on Action Items
The meeting may have been good, but the real measure of success is what happens AFTER the event.
One person should be assigned to note action items and provide a comprehensive list complete with deadlines to everyone who attended. Follow-through is the key to productive meetings that get meaningful results.
28. Establish the Same Outcome
If two people are trying to accomplish the same task, the process for acquiring their goal becomes much easier. However, if two individuals are torn in their desired outcomes, conflict rears its ugly head. Therefore, if you are having a business meeting with a partner, clearly identify the desired outcome of the meeting from the start. If the goal of your business meeting is to build a social media presence, and your associate agrees on that outcome, your brainstorming is aligned and optimized.
29. Stay Opened
A great meeting is started by letting everyone know they are an integral part of the result of what is going to take place in the meeting.
Everyone gets acknowledged and voices their position, ideas, pros & cons of the subject matter(s).
There should also be a little humor injected, so discussions stay light.
Some human everyday stuff should be thrown in, that everyone can relate too, so there is a kinship between all people, as people.
Connecting with each other is VERY important.
30. Have Your Ducks Lined Up
Whether you or your client initiated the meeting, don’t just show up. Prepare beforehand so you won’t stop the flow by saying, “I don’t know. I’ll have to get back to you.” Be punctual. Bring all needed materials and information to show, distribute, or for reference. Prepare questions or topics. Be respectful of everyone’s time; begin and end on schedule. Have money and/or credit card. Visualize the meeting and its outcome so you’ll be in your most positive frame of mind.
31. Keeping on Track
Common meeting challenge – staying on track. Solution: assign time-frames to each agenda item along with an independent timekeeper (not the facilitator) to keep the meeting on topic. Team members agree to ground rules in advance so that if an agenda item does not get completed, then it becomes “tabled” and carried to the agenda of the next meeting.
32. Don't Wing It!
Always maximize your control over a meeting with a potential client - especially when stakes are high or if the meeting will take place somewhere other than your office. You must know in advance what outcome you want and "reverse engineer" the agenda and your presentation to optimize your chances for success. You set the tone. If the potential client will benefit from receiving advance information, send it. If necessary, rehearse the meeting. Don't "wing it"! Plan it and execute your plan.
Listen, listen and then, buy them a coffee and listen. Then, advise once you know what their needs are.
34. Bring the Boss
Whenever I hold a cross functional meeting with individuals that do not report to me, I invite the highest ranking person in the organization. This leader will make a few comments regarding the importance of the project and then excuse themselves.
This works exceptionally well with long term projects with recurring meetings. Everyone likes to work on important projects and leadership attention validates that.
35. Build Rapport First
Before going into the actual meeting objectives, build good rapport with your meeting partner first. This could be something as simple as a smile, or maybe 1-2 sentences of 'small talk' or something more elaborate like mirroring/matching body language, understanding language patterns and cultural or gender differences and adapting to your meeting partner. It will be a lot easier to achieve what you want if you are in good rapport.
36. BTB strategy
Back to Basic (BTB strategy)
BTB means for me Back To Basic. – use small talk, smiles, cups of coffee and speak on important things for 15 minutes later. Now, I’m sure you think “Oh, thanks! Captain Obvious”. But, come on! Be true to yourself, guys! Your honesty, positive face, good-looking t-shirt and pleasant attentions do great work for you, even if you don’t know firstly how to start conversations – BTB is always help.
Sergey Kovelenov of Oh, my
37. Change the Name of the Game
As a business executive with an extensive background in administration, most often the leading authority is mainly responsible for the content, the creativity, the cohesiveness and the course of direction a meeting will take. Yet, it is a rarity for them to appeal to the interests surrounding their organizational constituents. We often hear the thunderous sounds of dread when employees are notified of an upcoming "meeting". Rename it: business extravaganza- purpose to excite, engage and educate.
38. Make it a Visual Presentation
I suggest creating a visual presentation such as a PowerPoint for business meetings. PowerPoint presentations help me present information to colleagues and clients in a simple and clear manner. It helps guide my words and the things I say throughout the meeting. This way, I never forget what I want to discuss. It also engages your meeting participants because they have something to look at while you speak and are not just staring at you or going off into a daze.
39. Get Everyone Moving!
Even if you're very passionate about the company or topic, long meetings can drag on and leave people daydreaming. The best way to combat this is to have opportunities for movement every 15-30 minutes. This can be as simple as a bathroom/food/coffee break, or depending on the company culture, have a little fun and do a group 30 second workout session. Productivity will soar and everyone in the meeting will be more focused.
40. Start at the End
I like to start any business meeting by saying what objectives need to be met to make the meeting successful. This lets everyone know exactly what needs to be accomplished by the end of the meeting, and it's great for keeping everyone focused and on task. By "starting at the end" and working backward, everyone envisions what a successful meeting will be like and they will want to make sure that this vision comes true.
41. Why are We Having this Meeting
The first thing I always ask people is why are we having this meeting? There better be objectives, structure and timeline before I walk in. Those in the meeting should have specific tasks that they are there to talk about and everyone should have 2 solutions ready to go for the problems they need to talk about.
It is all about having relevant meetings that are specific in nature and designed to develop actionable outcomes. If all you want to do is dance around a subject... count me out!
42. Have a Method to Your Meeting
Principles of Agile Scrum project management methodology make our meetings more effective. To ensure our team is “on the same page,” we meet daily and each individual has a limited time to answer 3 questions:
What have you accomplished since the last meeting?
What do you plan to accomplish by the next meeting?
What challenges are you facing?
This forces us to communicate efficiently. If a topic needs further discussion, it's held until the end of the meeting for those it affects.
43. Goals, Time Limits, Guidelines
First ask, "What is the goal of the meeting?" Then, set an agenda. Consider putting time limits, or at least guidelines, on each topic, and assigning a timekeeper and minute-taker at the meeting. Also, the minutes should be published, preferably in the body of an email, not as an attachment. This gives an opportunity to take a discussion off-line if necessary, keeps everyone on-track, and collects all the ideas and comments that come out of the meeting.
44. Be Crystal Clear on the WHY
Meetings can get easily derailed if you don't first start by being clear on your objective for getting together. When starting a meeting with a client, prospect or team member, we outline the goals for the discussion as well as our time limit. Anything that comes up outside of the designated "why" gets put on hold for another time.
45. Set the Correct Tone
For a meeting to be successful, it has to set the correct tone. Set a professional ambiance and be prepared in advance with printed documentation, photos, or any other visual aids that illustrate your points. Rather than just handing these materials to your colleague or client in a loose stack, presenting them in a compact, custom-designed presentation folder or binder will make a stronger impression. Your recipient will better comprehend your message and the meeting will go much smoother.
46. Catered Power Meetings
Our organization always orders catered food platters for all our internal executive business meetings. I have found that an assortment of muffins & bagels for breakfast meetings or sandwiches for lunch meetings ensures everyone is physically energized and prepared for what usually are very long meetings. We do not order with such fanfare for junior staff meetings, but we do try to make sure there is always pizza. I learned early in my career that meetings simply work better with food.
47. Set Your Goals Prior!
It's best to ask what are the goals, objectives & subject matter prior to the actual meeting taking place. This will help set the tone and be better prepared with a clear focus to have a successful meeting for everyone.
48. You Cannot Be too Prepared
This seems obvious - prepare for your meetings to make the most out of them. But I suggest not to prepare with just an agenda, meeting facilities and catering. I suggest to prepare a list of open questions to start with; perhaps even consider jointly creating a charter for the group to agree upon and commit to. You will find the process to be more collaborative and hence, more productive! Take the position of a coach/facilitator rather than a meeting administrator - it works wonders!
49. The Stand and Deliver Equation
Be prepared with definitive plans of attack.
Pick a nice, relatively quiet coffee house to meet, and then stand at the window counter to enjoy your beverages while going over how you can best serve your client.
Answer all inquiries, but get to the point! Inform clients that standing while meeting is not to rush them into any decision-making, but that you already have clear and definitive solutions to their problems and time is simply of the essence.
Preparation + zeal always = sales.
50. Talk Less. Listen More.
The key to having a successful and productive meeting with a client is to do more listening than talking. One of my idols is the TV and radio personality Dan Patrick. He does an amazing job of asking his guests thought-provoking questions that gets them extremely engaged in the conversation. This same philosophy carries over in real estate. By asking a series of thought provoking questions, we can make our meetings with clients more about them and less about us.
51. Add an Exclamation Point!
Treat your client to a nice lunch in a luxury setting to sign documents and go over contracts. This will add an exclamation point to the way your client feels about your company and the thought put into your meeting.
52. Manage Expectations
Set appropriate expectations. It's my job to be an expert on the real estate market for my clients. Relaying market information confidently with facts to back it up builds trust and understanding from the beginning. Setting expectations about the local real estate market and what the home buying or selling process will look like for my clients will help our relationship and lead to productivity and success. The same is the case in any industry. Managing expectations leads to better experiences.
53. Carry out a Research
It's important you research on the topics to be discussed at the business meeting. A one hour research on Google can go a long way in demonstrating confidence and preparedness at the meeting; and don't forget to put your major points on little sticky notes. Makes you roll out your points like a pro!
Do you have another tip for a great business meeting that wasn’t included? Please share it below. And as always, many thanks to everyone that contributed to this article!