Have you ever left a long meeting with the thought than an email or phone call would have solved the issue you discussed in less than five minutes of your time?
For most of us, unfortunately the answer is yes.
Between in-house team check-ins and weekly project updates with clients, the list of meetings you have to attend is almost endless. And the time you’re wasting is even worse!
Now, these meetings are completely justified in certain cases, such as the kickoff call or project milestone meetup. Without them your projects wouldn’t run smoothly or on time.
The same may not be true for the rest of the meetings that pack your already full schedule.
To tackle this issue, you’ll want to set up client meetings that are efficient and to-the-point. We’ll discuss exactly how to do that today.
#1: Determine the Focus: Can this be handled without a meeting?
Some clients will prove to be more micromanaging than others, but each one should be handled the same way.
Before you agree to schedule a meeting with your client, it’s important that you understand what the goal or focus is first.
This gives you a chance to determine if this issue is even worth having a meeting for or if it can be solved without one.
If your client is the one proposing the meeting, find out what the heart of the issue is.
If they’re just looking for a project update, send over a semi-detailed one. You don’t want to spend too much time creating this update or you’ll be in the same boat as a long meeting.
Get in the habit of sending these regularly if you’re faced with this type of client so they don’t have the opportunity to bring up the need for constant meetings, yet they’ll have exactly what they want.
On the flipside, your time is money too.
If your team is used to scheduling one too many meetings with your clients, you may want to consider cutting back. After all, by doing this, you could be opening up a Pandora’s box of client requests and spending far too much of your time here.
We’ll show you how to strike a better balance later on in this article.
#2: Figure Out Who Really Needs to Be There
Next, it’s important that the right people attend the right meetings.
During late stage sales meetings, you may want to bring in someone from your service side of the business to ensure that you can in fact deliver what the prospect is looking for in the timeframe that they need.
This prevents the whole “over-promising and under-delivering” dilemma that destroys so many agencies.
You may also want a service side employee there to talk through the technical aspects of the project that your sales team may not fully understand. This helps build trust in your potential client and may also speed up the sale.
Another area these employees should be included in is your milestone updates. Again, this ensures that the next stages of the project are realistic and actually attainable.
Keep in mind that these employees should be able to jump in and out of meetings like these. If they don’t need to be there the whole time, let them leave.
Holding them there any longer than necessary is never a good idea. Remember: Time spent in meetings cuts into the time they have budgeted to actually execute the project.
By having the right people in your meetings, you won’t ever have a situation where you end up stalling because you don’t know what the latest update is or where you stand on a certain part of the project.
#3: Schedule the Meeting at the Right Time
Avoiding certain times can actually improve how efficient your meetings are.
When you schedule meetings just before lunchtime, you won’t have everyone’s full attention or focus. Your meetings run the risk of being rushed or tuned out altogether as everyone stares at the clock waiting for lunch.
This same situation happens after lunch for some people, which makes that time slot one to avoid if you want alert team members.
Your best bet is to schedule meetings at the beginning of the day, but not at the very start of them.
You want to give everyone time to settle in and prepare for the meeting, so one first thing in the morning may not be the best idea. An ideal window for client meetings seems to be right around the 10:00a.m.–11:30a.m. time slot.
#4: Send the Meeting Focus Ahead of Time
Now that you nailed down the focus of the meeting, who will be there, and the best time to hold your meeting, you’ll want to give everyone attending a head’s up.
If you need certain documents or project pieces, state these items specifically in your description so everyone is on the same page.
You should send this invite out as soon as possible—a minimum of a few hours, ideally a few days/weeks ahead of time—in case anyone has questions or if certain items won’t be ready by then.
Be sure to let your client know that these talking points are the only ones you’ll be going over. If there are multiple issues or concerns, those will be addressed separately so they can be handled with everyone’s full attention.
#5: Create a Loose Plan & Stick to It
While you don’t need a play-by-play-itinerary, you should still have a loose game plan for your meeting. By doing this, you can keep everyone on task and avoid any spiraling tangents that tend to emerge and distract.
As soon as the meeting starts to deviate from the plan, reel everyone back in. This also helps those clients who like to get lost in the someday in the future I’d like to tackle this next step but never actually get to it.
Simply jot down their idea in a notebook and refer back to it later. Remind everyone that this meeting is only going to discuss what was sent out in the description and nothing extra.
Speaking of which, since you’ve already sent out a description of the meeting, this step shouldn’t take too long. However, this is one of the best ways to keep your meetings organized, efficient, and most importantly, moving along.
#6: Moving Forward, Send Updates as Progress is Made
After your meeting, reflect on what took place to see if things could be handled differently moving forward.
Could this particular issue have been tackled with a quick phone call instead of an in-person meeting? Does this type of concern ever require a meeting in the future?
Think about the real focus of your meeting and what you accomplished. How can you still provide exactly what your client is looking for without another meeting?
For example, if your client only wants to schedule meetings to discuss project updates, you may be off the hook. A simple weekly update email could handle this for you.
So, before you plan your next meeting, be sure to follow our tips in order. This ensures that your meetings are short and efficient while still tackling everything that needs to get done.
Soon you’ll find that these organized meetings end up freeing up some much needed time in your schedule so you can accomplish projects faster or work on big-picture items instead. A win-win for everyone.