Let's face it, we're getting worse and worse about being civil to one another and business meetings are a prime place where manners are disappearing.
In Marketing, we always discuss the value of the first impression and what it does to carry a brand forward. The old cliché that, "you only get one shot to make a first impression" is true, so why do so many people squander that opportunity - especially in the business meeting format? In the past while, I have attended meetings or heard stories from others with similar gripes that include people getting up to leave while someone is presenting to other individuals never lifting their heads out of their laptops, iPads and smartphones.
Nothing screams "big waste of time" more than people not putting all of their attention on the task at hand.
It is not incumbent on the person speaking to be engaging all of time (that's not an easy thing to do), but it is incumbent on the person who organized the meeting to create an environment that can lead to the best result possible.
Here are 15 ways to create a winning business meeting:
- Set a simple and short agenda. You can figure out the minutia later. If you're pulling people away from their day-to-day work keep it short and simple. Also only put items on the agenda that can be resolved within the meeting.
- Invite only the people that really have to be there. If you have the right people in the room, those people can then find the additional resources to figure the rest out. Too many meetings have too many people which causes some (sometimes a lot) of the content to not be relevant to others in the room. If something is being discussed it should be relevant to all participants of the meeting.
- Confirm with attendees on the day before. Make sure to send a friendly reminder the day before. Also re-confirm with those that are presenting to ensure that they keep their content relevant to the entire group, and that they don't kill your meeting with death by PowerPoint.
- Do some research. If your company is bring in a new potential partner or vendor, do your research before the meeting. A basic online search will help you understand who the company is and what they do. If you have time, hop over to LinkedIn and review the profile of the people who you are meeting. If you don't know who the company is, who you are meeting and why you are meeting them, then why did you show up? Doing that baseline research goes beyond common courtesy... it's just common sense. Leave any (and all) meetings that start with someone saying, "so tell us why you are here and what you can do for us?"
- Create a space. Bring the lighting up. Bring all of the chairs close together. If the room is too big, move the chairs so people have to sit close to one another. Put the drinks in the middle of the table so attendees don't have to get up or disturb the presenter. Black belt tip: leave name cards on the seats - this will force people to sit next to new/different people and will encourage more interactivity amongst the group. If you want winning results, you have to create an atmosphere to win!
- Technology first. If you're using a conference call, video conference, Skype or even Internet connectivity, make sure it is set-up and running correctly ten minutes before starting the meeting. Meetings that start ten minutes late because of this are not only wasting people's valuable time but also demonstrate a lack of professionalism.
- Hand-outs. If you must have hand-outs (my recommendation is to only give them out at the end of a meeting or to email a digital version after the meeting's conclusion) place one in every seat prior to the start of the meeting.
- Start on time. If people are late, it will be them who will be missing the content. Don't penalize those that are on time. And yes, this includes superiors. Bosses, managers, etc... should be embarrassed if their own staff can be there and ready before them (lead from the front) - it says something about their respect for the team.
- Chair it. Always have someone chair the meeting. This person should give a 30-second pitch for the meeting that is ahead and do any formal introductions if you are meeting with people you have never seen before. All meetings should start off with a simple opening statement around the context of the presentation. Great meetings are created by great chairs.
- Nobody gets out alive. Go to the bathroom before the meeting. There is never any reason to get up and leave. And yes, that means to grab a bottle of water or snacks before. How would you feel if people were getting up and leaving while you were presenting? If you can only stay for a portion of the meeting either check in with the person chairing the session or don't bother showing up at all. People who leave in the middle are a huge disruption and distraction. Black belt tip: if someone does have to leave in the middle, have the Chair let the group know during the opening statement.
- All hands on deck. Unless you have an agreement that people can use laptops, iPads and smartphones to take notes (which is not the best idea), all of that technology should be banned from formal meetings and presentations. Recently, I was speaking in a meeting and noticed that the three people next to me were on their laptops... working on their email! Why invite someone in and create a meeting if the people attending are doing the same work they would do if there wasn't a meeting? Everyone loses. More importantly, it is totally insulting and distracting. So, even if you are legitimately taking notes, sit far away from the presenter and be very quiet and subtle about it.
- Never table an item. Why do people say, "let's table that item"? That's stupid. Never table an item. If something was put on the agenda, it's important for the team to come to a resolution on it. Get it done.
- Clean up. When the meeting is done, please clean up. Don't wait for someone else to do it (even if you have a cleaning crew). Put the chairs back nicely, remove your food/beverages and toss out all papers. Shut down the computers and projectors (and don't forget to put the remotes back in a place where everyone can find them). Leave it in the same way that it was created.
- Be a human being. Be kind. Use your best manners. Smile. Thank people for their attention and time.
- Follow-up. Send a thank you note (written is best, but email is acceptable) letting people know that you appreciated their time and what the follow-up/output of the meeting will be.
Now it's your turn to add to this list. What are some of your best tips and tricks to having a successful meeting?