For many, much of the working day is consumed by meetings, which can be a major source of frustration inside any organization. But matters get far more complicated when a client starts to dread meeting with you because he feels it will be a time-waster. Here are a few ideas to make meetings both more pleasant and efficient, and into relationship-builders.
We all say we wish we had more time to do things, but in most cases, if you are a business owner, executive, senior manager, marketing professional or salesperson, you probably have more control of your schedule than you think.
However, with the average professional attending as many as three meetings a day, it is no wonder that people get the feeling that the calendar controls them and time is working against them. Chances are, people would begin appreciating meetings and find them vastly more productive if they were shorter, tightly-scheduled, began and ended promptly and geared toward their needs and interests.
Ken Adams, a member of the product management team of Join.Me, a company that organizes online meetings with a stated goal of “making people love meetings again,” suggests, first and foremost, that hour-long meetings be scaled back to 50 minutes and half-hour meetings cut to 20 minutes. By saving ten minutes off of the average three meetings per day, attendees will gain a half-hour a day, or 10 hours during the course of a working month. This is time that can be put to productive use to implement the decisions made in the meetings, rather than sit and hash them out some more.
Shorter meetings are also more likely to hold people’s attention, and as Mr. Adams correctly noted: “Holding a client’s attention is one of the best ways to ensure a sale… while meetings that aren’t well planned, don’t meet the prospects’ expectations, and don’t address the ‘what’s in it for me’ issue are simply a waste of time for everyone involved.”
A co-worker, client or prospect who scrolls through their Smartphone, or absentmindedly flips through pages of the report on the desk in front of them, is signaling that you’ve lost them. If so, it’s time to shift your tactics. Adams suggests pausing your presentation to see if anyone has any questions or comments. If you’re a salesman making a presentation, a good question to ask is “I’m wondering if what I am suggesting accurately addresses your needs.” The opportunity for interaction will bring meeting participants back into focus. A timely question during a sales presentation that enables the client to explain his needs can spell the difference between inking a deal and sinking it.
What can you do to make the most of your meetings? Adams suggests the following:
- Work carefully to set agendas
Meeting agendas should directly address what your staffers need to know and prospects want to know. Remember that they aren’t taking time out of their day to hear you ramble. They have questions and needs – those have to be the priority.
- Ask open-ended questions
Phrase your inquiries carefully so that they must be answered with more than just a “yes” or “no.” A meeting that encourages interaction lets staffers know their input is valued and lets clients know that they are taking part in much more than a stock sales presentation. Showing them that you care about how they accomplish their goals and meet their needs helps build anticipation and cooperation.
- Make sure you connect with all the participants
In group presentations, many people often make the mistake of addressing themselves to one or two key individuals. While it’s imperative to identify and interact primarily with the decision maker, be sure to involve all the attendees. Keep in mind, if the key decision maker felt that their presence was important, than you should too!
Bottom Line Action Step: Turn “long-winded meetings” into “effective power meetings,” through focused preparation.