When’s the last time you were part of a good meeting? I mean, a really good meeting. One that left you feeling energized, electrified, and ready to get out there and make shit happen, and not just because there were coffee and donuts? Here are 6 tips for having mind-blowing meetings.
Maybe, (yawn) you’re imaging a recent meeting that was anything but. Business meetings, whether they are one on one, or with your team can be a necessary evil, or an uplifting, clarifying and provocative…er…productive experience. Guess what…it’s your choice. Over the years, I’ve spent countless hours organizing, attending, and participating in meetings. Here are a few rules I personally abide by to make the most of every meeting.
1. Set Your Intention Ahead of Time
I set the context from the jump when I schedule a meeting. Is it a “getting know you” coffee date, a strategic planning meeting, or a sales call? This helps me come prepared for the meeting, and if necessary create an agenda and format to help things flow smoothly. For one on one meetings with a prospect or new business contact, I like to email a cheat sheet on my business – kind of like a dating profile for my company ahead of time. This saves time on small talk and gives the person I’m meeting some key points to connect and engage with me on.
2. Hone your Habitat (environment is everything)
When I’m in meeting mode, you can usually find me posted up in my natural habitat – the coffee shop. This is my go-to meeting place for one on one or small group meetings that don’t require much privacy. I know the menu inside out, and all the people that work there – and I make sure to tip them well! For coaching clients that require more privacy, I’ll have them come to my home office. For those with an office space, I recommend utilizing a separate meeting space that is away from your personal workspace. Those piled up papers and to-do lists have a way of calling out to you mid-meeting, “hey look at me!” Talk about distracting.
3. Watch the Clock
My clients know they only have an hour with me, and almost always show up a few minutes early because I stick to the time like white on rice. Consistency is crucial. We teach our clients and team members how to treat us – especially when it comes to timeliness. I suggest setting firm time parameters around meetings and sticking to them. I like to set my alarm on my phone for 10 minutes less than my meeting time, so that I can be completely present, and not looking at the clock. When the timer goes off, that’s my cue to wrap up. For more on time management, see my Scheduling Ninja Blog.
On a side note regarding the phone – unless I’m awaiting an extremely urgent call, I put my phone in “do not disturb” mode and leave it be. This sets an example to my counterpart that I’m serious about the meeting and intend to give them my full attention. We’ve all been there when our meeting partner is texting or shamelessly checking social media across the table. Have some manners.
4. Two ears, One Mouth
As the saying goes, you have two ears and one mouth, so use them accordingly. Listening is a highly underrated skill. Ask questions and give your counterpart the time and space to respond. A great way to get your partner to open up is to say something like “Tell me more about ____.” Slow down and make eye contact, connection is important. For team meetings, this is an opportunity for your employees or team members to be seen and heard. Make sure to hold space for them and create an environment where they feel safe speaking up. Follow the natural flow of conversation. While I have an agenda, those who know me know I do like to jump around sometimes or go down the rabbit hole on a side note. This isn’t a bad thing if you keep it brief – new possibilities and ideas can be revealed in the process.
5. Side Step Hijackers
We all know the meeting hijacker. That endless rambler who can talk about themselves for hours, comes 15 minutes late and makes you wait while they go to the bathroom and then order the fanciest craft latte on the menu that takes a lifetime to make. Although you want to give them a facial high-five, refrain.
Instead, I invite you to learn the subtle art of redirecting. For chatty ramblers, I interject and say something like, “That is awesome, I love that… but let’s get back on track…. I want to make sure we talk about X.” If they continue to disrespect the intention of the meeting and prattle on, I end the meeting early. They are not respecting my time, so I don’t give it to them. I never try to force my agenda or talk about myself if they are not allowing space for it. In a team meeting setting, you can politely acknowledge the “hijacker” and then ask them to table the issue. If they persist, invite them to leave if they continue to disrupt the meeting.
6. Follow Up Like Your Life Depends On It
A common downfall of meetings is lack of follow through. You have a great chat and outline all your plans for world domination and….it falls flat because there’s no follow through. Drats! First, if we didn’t get to everything on the agenda, I schedule another meeting right then. I recap and identify action items for myself and my counterpart, or team members before ending the meeting. I like to send a follow-up email within the next 24 hours clarifying action items. It goes something like this:
Thanks for meeting today. Today we discussed ____.
My to-dos are:
What I need from you is (their to-dos):
Am I missing anything?
Well, thanks for ‘meeting’ me here. I hope you find my rules helpful, and your next meeting is a productive one. What helps make your meetings great? I’d like to hear from you. Drop me a line.