When is the last time you walked out of a meeting and thought, “That meeting was fantastic!”? My bet is that you usually have that feeling after leaving a meeting with your customers. I’ll also bet that you usually don’t feel that way after an internal company meeting.
Why does this happen?
I believe that customer meetings are given a lot more preparation time than internal meetings. It completely makes sense to do all the background work before meeting with customers…but, given everyone’s tight schedules, shouldn’t the same consideration and preparation be afforded internal meetings?
Do More of This in Your Meetings
When I’m at a meeting with customers, I like to have our team pretty buttoned up in terms of an agenda and proper time management. If a presentation is going to be given, there should be at least a basic walk-through to gauge how long it takes to get through the deck. Rushing through a presentation in the last 5 minutes because of poor time management is a reflection of poor preparation. I ask a simple question at the beginning of EVERY customer meeting: “Do we have a hard stop at the end of our allotted time?” If the original ending time is still in effect, then you will need to present with “the clock running.” If one of your colleagues is presenting and is not paying attention to the time, then you may need to step in with a 15-minute time warning…if it’s your boss, then you might want to discuss this with them before the meeting starts!
At both external and internal meetings, make sure that at least one of your teammates is taking notes. The presenter, at an external customer meeting, will have plenty to do in giving the presentation as well as answering questions…they will NOT be able to also take good notes. At your internal meeting, you will probably be taking notes yourself. But I strongly recommend that someone should take extensive notes, which will be distributed to the attendees and used by all to align on decisions, action items, and next steps. We’ve all had experiences where we THOUGHT something was agreed to and it turns out that was not the case.
Finally, let’s briefly talk about the use of electronic devices in meetings. Obviously, in customer meetings you can’t tell them to put down the laptops and phones…ideally, they are engaged enough with your presentation’s content that they will not be looking at emails.
Internal meetings are a different story. I’ve gone back and forth on this and I’ve come to the conclusion that IF someone is using note-taking software, OneNote or Evernote as an example, then they should be able to use their laptops for that purpose. Personally, I prefer written notes which I then might summarize and add to Evernote after the meeting…I know, duplication of effort. But I would strongly suggest prohibiting the use of cell phones in meetings. We all are aware of the addictive aspects of one’s smart phone and it truly is a distraction and roadblock to attendee engagement.
Do Less of This in Your Meetings
I believe that the biggest reason for bad meetings is a lack of organization and purpose. We all are familiar with the “Weekly Sales Meeting.” I’ve been in way too many meetings where everyone involved sounds like the animatronic figures at Disneyland. The participants are just going through the motions. This mostly happens during internal meetings and can be corrected by adding an agenda and purpose to the meeting. Define clearly what the meeting is designed to accomplish…and it should be a measureable goal that can be addressed at the conclusion of the meeting. An agenda can be very helpful because it can keep the meeting ‘on track.’ We all know of individuals (sometimes maybe ourselves) that can go off on a tangent and derail a meeting. I’m all for active engagement of the meeting participants but everyone should stay focused on the topics to be discussed.
Have you ever been required to attend a meeting to prepare for another meeting? I’ve worked at companies that specialized in meeting overkill. It seemed like some of the employees’ sole purpose was to attend meetings. I’m a huge fan of customer meetings…as salespeople, time spent with your customers is pure gold. But, I’d recommend reducing as much as possible wasteful internal meetings. Make sure something productive comes out of those internal meeting and that they are not held out of habit.
Meetings can be very valuable if thought out and carefully prepared. Think about how you can contribute to better customer and internal meetings.