Showing up prepared
Often, issues arise early in the meeting process. In fact, much earlier than the meeting itself. Experienced meeting organizers are quick to acknowledge: the better the prep, the smoother the journey. The essentials for a good meeting include a clear time in everyone’s calendar, relevant information that’s sent around in good time and the most common pitfall: a set agenda for discussion.
We recently wrote about the four questions you should ask yourself prior to a meeting, and “What would I add to the agenda?” was one of them. Wilfred Blood, the CEO at SecTek, an American private security service, tells the story of what unfolded when an agenda was attached to a scheduled meeting a couple days beforehand:
“Just doing that immediately created a flurry of feedback. People were on their toes about what they need to get ready and when we got to the meeting everybody was more prepared to bring forward information and defend their opinions.”
The extra work put into the agenda may seem like overkill, but it’s easy to disregard the potential before trying it yourself. When asked about agendas, Aaron M. Vaughn, a financial advisor at Ameriprise in Cleveland, Ohio, shared his insights about how the agenda does double duty in his client meetings as both a preparation and facilitation tool:
“I create the agenda ahead of time and ask the client if they have any specific needs that they wish to talk about. If they do, I add those to the agenda and during the meeting I have the tool up on the screen, taking notes of everything as we’re having the meeting.”
Committing to action
Meetings can often be misconstrued as a time to talk and exchange ideas — a loose meeting of the minds. While there is a time and place for this sort of encounter, the other 99% of meetings are not about the talking; they are meant to inform the actions each participant will execute after the meeting.
When seen through this lens, it becomes clear that structure and discipline is needed to manifest this purpose. Ian Cook, Commercial Director at the internet service provider RSAWEB in South Africa, reflected on the lax meeting culture that prevailed before introducing the structure provided by Stratsys meeting tool:
“Before there was no follow-up, there was no rigor, there was no discipline, people forgot things, they weren’t documented. The meeting tool has really changed that for us so we’re delighted with it.”
Taking notes on a meandering conversation will do little good, but logging decisions, action items, responsible parties and due dates? Now that will revolutionize a team’s productivity. And as Ian Cook reflected, it will save a whole lot of time, too:
“Typically, because the agenda’s there, people know what’s been said before so the meetings have definitely gotten shorter, a lot more focused and we get things done more quickly.”
Aaron M Vaughn even goes as far as saying:
“On average the tool saves us 20-30 minutes per meeting”.
The evidence is as clear as it gets.
Winning at follow-up
While the urge to jump straight to the next thing as a meeting is concluding may be strong, without taking a moment to properly delegate, participants might leave without any action items in hand. If you ask us, in such a scenario the meeting shouldn’t have been called in the first place.
As an organizer of recurring meetings, you not only want to make sure you sort out such practicalities as scheduling the next meeting, but also keep participants accountable, which goes for internal meetings as well as the ones with clients.
For Jim Lao, a financial advisor at TvH Group in Toronto, Canada, the minutes feature has become a key pillar in his follow-up communication with clients:
“In the minutes, I can indicate what we have talked about and if the client is responsible for providing me with a statement or any other documentation, and I can assign a tasks to all participants. Another great thing about it is that the client has a record of what has been discussed so we avoid misunderstandings at the same time.”
Follow-up is also easier because everything is integrated in the same system: notes, to-do lists, calendar invites. As Aaron M Vaughn puts it:
“Before I had to take the tasks that we had talked about and I had to transfer them to another tool to be able to track them. Now I don’t have to do either of those steps.”
What do all these Stratsys users have in common? They all recognized that they should be getting more out of their meetings. And given the digital era we live in, they knew that there would be “an app for that” and found their way to our meeting tool. No complex array of systems and software needed. Sometimes, there is just one answer to all your problems.