Nine Steps For Effective Meetings

By Heather Baldwin

When most salespeople think of meetings, they think of time-consuming and unproductive hours that take away from selling. And they’re not far off the mark: “By one account, 53 percent of all meeting time is unproductive,” says Marjorie Brody, president of Brody Communications Ltd. in Jenkintown, PA. Still, Brody acknowledges in some cases where emails, memos and one-on-one encounters won’t accomplish the mission, meetings are a necessary evil. Meeting leaders can make the most of that time, she says, by following these nine guidelines for meeting success:

1. Set a time. Decide when the meeting will be held and let participants know well in advance. “Consider using unusual start times, like 8:57 a.m.,” says Brody. “It will help people remember the meeting and be on time.” Avoid late afternoon and Friday afternoon meetings. Schedule short meetings before lunch.

2. Prepare an agenda. First determine your objectives for the meeting: what do you want to achieve? Do you want to share information or reach a decision on something? Then create an agenda that will enable you to meet those objectives. The agenda should include the meeting location, date, start and end time, objectives, schedule of events, people responsible for each item, materials participants should bring, names of participants and the name and contact information of the meeting leader.

3. Select the participants. Identify the people who will help you achieve your objectives. About each one, ask yourself: Why should he attend? Is it okay to take his time away from other tasks?

4. Schedule room and equipment. Pick and schedule the best location, make sure the room has the appropriate audio/visual equipment and outlets and arrange for refreshments.

5. Invite attendees. Distribute the agenda and any meeting materials to attendees well in advance of the meeting.

6. Start the meeting. Arrive early to ensure materials are ready and the room is set up, and then start the meeting precisely on time.

7. Follow the agenda. During the meeting, use the agenda as a guide to manage time effectively and ensure you stay on track to meet your objectives.

8. Close the meeting. Summarize your objectives and show how they were met; reiterate action items and who is responsible; if necessary, set a date and time for the next meeting; and thank participants for their time and input. “Typically people are not realistic about timing when preparing an agenda so the close of a meeting can be rushed,” says Brody. To avoid this problem, put several minutes of closing time on the agenda.

9. Follow up. Within a day or two of the meeting send participants a summary of what was covered and action items. Include a questionnaire asking for feedback about the meeting, and then learn from that feedback and apply it to the next meeting.