I read with interest a blog post on PR Moment which cites meetings as a waste of time.
Although the article, written by Hacked Off Flack, is tongue in cheek to some extent (at least I hope so – he states falling asleep as a way to keep your meetings short!) I can’t help but come back with a rebuttal.
Having started a new job two weeks ago, building client relationships is one of the most important things I need to do in order to effectively manage my client’s accounts. I am passionate that this can’t be done without regular face-to-face contact.
But I won’t disagree completely with Hacked Off Flack – I have been in many meetings which have proven to be a complete waste of time, turning into lengthy debates rather than short, sharp decision making sessions.
With that in mind, here some tips to ensure your meetings remain productive.
1). It’s all about the agenda
Draft a realistic agenda before the meeting and issue it to all parties for additions and reference (about a week before if possible). This will make sure that everyone is in agreement on what needs to be discussed, and will hopefully stop anything from being missed off, or tangents from taking over. Try and plan how long you think each item will last and decide your meeting length around this. Most importantly – stick to it and steer people back to the agenda if necessary.
2). Someone take notes
And by this I don’t mean illegible scribble (which is what I’m often guilty of!) but proper, detailed notes of decisions and actions. Note taking is actually a pretty hard skill to master – being able to filter the bullshit and capture the stuff that really matters should not be underestimated.
3). Clarify actions at the end of each meeting
How many times have you left a meeting still not knowing what you’re supposed to be doing, or wondering if your client is really clear about what you need them to do? At the end of the meeting have your dedicated note taker clarify each person’s actions, quickly and succinctly.
4). Circulate a contact report
Issue a contact report to all parties after the meeting, confirming in writing what has been agreed. In my view a written record is vital to ensure that everyone is clear on what needs to be achieved by when. It’s also a good tool to look back on when you’re nearing the next meeting, to make sure that everything has been actioned.
5). Think about who should attend
Most PROs and agencies charge per hour or day, and meetings can quickly eat into a retainer. Think carefully about who should be in the meeting – do you really need an account director, manager and two account executives? Only have those who will truly benefit from the meeting, both from your team and the client’s perspective.
6). Always schedule an end time
If you don’t have an end time you’re asking for trouble! Keep an eye on the time and give the odd countdown to remind people; e.g.: “We’ve got 15 minutes left, shall we move onto the next item?”
7). Get into a routine
Decide how often you need to have client meetings; monthly, bi-monthly, quarterly, whatever. But whatever you choose – stick to it. It’s when meetings get cancelled and you try and roll six months worth into one meeting that things get a bit hectic! The last item on your agenda should always be ‘date of the next meeting’.
8). Get biscuits (or cookies for my American readers)
Sugar makes every meeting easier to bear. Trust me, it’s a well known fact.