Shop Talk

Ask the experts: 3 ways to make your meetings better

Meetings get a bad rep. People dread going to them and often complain about them afterward, even when they’re leading them.

Meetings are a fact of life for business owners. Owners are the face of the company, and when a prospect, customer or vendor wants to meet, they want to meet with that person. So how can you take your meeting game to the next level? It’s as simple as A, B, C.

A is for action: The first step to a successful meeting is to determine what you want the result to be. Ask yourself, “If this meeting goes really well, what will happen next?”

Push yourself to define at least one specific action that will demonstrate success. If you’re meeting with a customer, go beyond, “Find out if they’re happy with the service they’ve been getting,” to “Address any points of feedback about our service and get two referrals to new customers.”

Meeting leaders often make the mistake of thinking A stands for agenda. If you start with an agenda, you often get a laundry list of topics. Agenda-driven meetings usually touch on a lot of issues, but don’t build to a goal.

B is for before: The real meeting takes place before the meeting.

The “meeting before the meeting” is where parameters are set, alliances are made and deals are struck. If you’ve ever attended a meeting where you were expecting to discuss something and got railroaded instead, you probably missed the real meeting.

Positive outcomes should be a foregone conclusion. What is a realistic budget for the project? Who are the likely partners for the work? What should I not even bother bringing up? These pieces of advance intelligence allow me to focus everyone’s precious time on the topics that will do the most good.

C is for continuity: The worst meetings are ones that feel like the movie “Groundhog Day.” The same questions, the same roadblocks, the same people sitting around the same table.

The best meetings are the ones that feel like links in a chain, where the previous meeting’s issues have been resolved, placing a fresh set of challenges in front of the group.

If you can start a meeting by recapping tangible progress, you’ll greatly increase people’s excitement about what will happen next.