By Lorna Keogh, Sage Business Advice Manager, SBD – Direct Sales
While meetings should ideally be productive and engaging, unfortunately internal meetings can often serve as ad breaks during a busy working day. Attendees turn up on ‘Irish Time’ a few minutes late coffee in hand and settle in for the hour while checking email at regular intervals. So how best to ensure meetings are in fact the main feature? How do you get and hold people’s attention in order to get your points across?
Personally I have always threatened that if I have my own company I will implement my own meeting rules namely that virtually all meetings will be twenty minutes long and conducted standing up. Chocolate will be provided and late comers will be locked out and will no doubt turn up on time next time. If it is sunny meetings will be held outside (it is always a shame to waste something as rare as Irish sunshine). Meetings requiring longer discussion will only be held where a full agenda is created in advance and attendees will enjoy the comfort of bean bags. I can appreciate that my own fictional meeting environment is unlikely to work for everyone so instead the information below might be a step in the right direction.
Firstly create an agenda. While this sounds pretty dictatorial it’s a basic concept to actually know what you want to do before inviting half the office into a room. Detail in your meeting request what the meeting is about, why you are asking people to attend and what you hope to discuss and achieve. If the meeting related to a company project or goal or if there are outcomes you hope to achieve – state that! How often have you attended a meeting where you had no clear idea in advance what exactly it was about and why you were attending? How often have you declined a meeting because the brief information you received meant that it didn’t seem relevant?
While you already know this information it is important to create an agenda in advance so you get buy in from attendees. An agenda also helps you to stay on track during the meeting.
Secondly consider who to invite – who really needs to be there? We all hear about having the right people on the bus and it’s just as important to have the right people in the meeting room. Rather than inviting half the company focus on the key decision makers and influencers. Once you have these key people bought into your idea and plans they can then implement appropriate actions in their area and influence upwards and downwards acting as an ambassador for you.
Thirdly consider timings. Potential attendees are more likely to attend if given enough notice and if you use timing to your advantage. As a general rule month end is a hectic time for anyone in a sales or financial environment. With this in mind a meeting that will discuss something that has an impact on immediate or short term revenue will be seen as vital. A meeting that focuses on more long term goals or that will discuss areas not revenue related may be best placed at mid month where more attention can be devoted to them. Phone based colleagues will need to factor in call volumes and team and department KPI’s when determining if they can attend. Allowing plenty of notice and scheduling your meeting for times of lower call volumes may increase the likelihood of attendance.
And finally – set and discuss goals, assign actions and follow up. A meeting on its own is nothing unless valuable insights are gained and shared and unless actions result from it. Take ownership of post meeting follow up and circulate details of the minutes and agreed actions. Schedule actions and appropriate follow up and encourage feedback.