Your best chance for an effective meeting
There’s an old saying from Sun Tzu, “Every battle is won before it’s ever fought”. This succinct sentence reminds us that preparation plus, execution equals success. In order to have an effective meeting, proper meeting prep needs to be done. There are three main functions of meeting prep to help run an effective meeting.
- Sharpen your meeting objective
- Identify your best participants
- Ensure everyone is prepared
Today, I will be focusing in on the first step, sharpening your meeting objective. Having a sharp, well focused meeting objective exponentially increases the net results of any meeting. It’s not enough to define your meeting objective as, “To talk about our sales cycle”. You’ll want to hone in on a well-defined objective by first asking yourself a few questions.
- What do we want to accomplish?
- What are our desired outcomes?
- Why do we want to accomplish these outcomes?
- How important is the final result?
- When should the desired result be accomplished by?
- How will we measure success?
- How can this result best be accomplished?
Now that you have the answers to these questions, you can write out an objective. Sharp meeting objectives are specific, purposeful and timely.
Specific – identify the desired outcome and how you plan to achieve it.
Many people start a written meeting objective with an action in order describe what the group will be doing during the meeting – identify, review, select, determine, recommend, prioritize, solve, resolve, brainstorm, plan, develop, etc. These are all great meeting activities, but the syntax puts focus on the activity rather than the outcome. This can lead to a well-defined meeting activity, but a fuzzy outcome. Instead, start your meeting objective with your desired outcome and work backwards to determine your actions.
To shorten our sales cycle by collectively brainstorming several options, identifying the best and making a plan to implement.
Purposeful – identify how the outcome is important.
By adding purpose to your meeting objective, you highlight the importance of the desired outcome. Why do you want this objective accomplished? What will happen if your objective isn’t accomplished? What will happen if it is accomplished? How much impact will it have on the business? The motive for an outcome can be just as important as the outcome itself. For example, you could want to shorten the sales cycle so you can lower costs and avoid layoffs or maybe you want to shorten the sales cycle because you’ve noticed significantly high drop offs when sales reps are confronted with objections. These separate purposes lead to different discussions. By stating the purpose in your meeting objective ahead of time, you lead the direction of the discussion and make efficient use of your team’s time.
To shorten our sales cycle by collectively brainstorming ways to better handle prospects’ objections to our products, identifying the best solutions and making a plan to implement.
To shorten our sales cycle by collectively brainstorming all possible ways to lower costs, identifying the best solutions and making a plan to implement.
Timely – identify when the outcome can be achieved
In order for a meeting objective to be realistic, it needs to have timey goals. When should the objective be met? Is it realistic to think that you can achieve this objective with a single meeting? This line of thought can help you identify the path you need to take to achieve your desired outcomes. Maybe brainstorming, identifying and making a plan is too much to achieve in one meeting. By making your objective timely, you also provide a timeline to your attendees, adding an additional level of accountability
To shorten our sales cycle by March 1st by collectively brainstorming ways to better handle prospects’ objections to our products on January 15th, identifying the best solutions on January 22nd, making a plan to implement on February 1st and following up on plan implementation on February 15th and 22nd.
Compare – Old dull meeting objective vs. New sharp meeting objective
To talk about our sales cycle.
To shorten our sales cycle by March 1st by collectively brainstorming ways to better handle prospects’ objections to our products on January 15th, identifying the best options on January 22nd, making a plan to implement on February 1st and following up on plan implementation on February 15th and 22nd.
Which meeting objective do you think will make the most effective use of your team’s time? Which meeting objective will most likely end in success? The answer is quite clear.
A quick note – since this meeting objective covers a series of meetings, you would want to revisit and sharpen the objective before each subsequent meeting. So the January 22nd meeting objective would read “To shorten out sales cycle by March 1st by reviewing the team’s ideas to better handle prospects’ objectives to our products and selecting the best options on Jan 22nd, making a plan to implement on Feb 1st and following up on plan implementation on Feb 15th and 22nd. “
Planning a meeting with a sharp objective is easier.
Now that you have a sharp objective and know how important the outcome is, you can properly plan your meeting. You can decide how many resources should be allocated to the meeting/s in order to achieve your desired outcome/s. This sharpening will also help you decide what kind of meeting you should have. Should you have a face-to-face meeting, an audio conference, a web conference or a video conference? If the outcome is high-value and complicated, you would use more resources to ensure your meeting objective is achieved. Maybe you’ll need a web meeting with a professional facilitator or an on-site meeting with a visiting industry expert. Maybe your meeting’s objective is simple enough to be accomplished over the phone. With a sharpened objective, your decisions will be well informed.
Sharp meeting objectives tell you when you have succeeded
Another important aspect of sharpening your meeting objective is to identify how you will measure success of that objective. In the example above, the measure of success is clearly defined in the objective. At the end of the first meeting, you would ask, “Did we successfully brainstorm ways to better handle prospects’ objections to our products?” If the answer to that question is, “yes,” you met that meeting’s objective. On March 1st, you can ask yourself if you’ve shortened your sales cycle. If you’re answer is, “yes”, you’ve achieved your meeting objective. Other meetings might have more obscure measures of success. I discuss this topic in detail here. The point is that you want your team to know:
- Exactly what they need to accomplish.
- If they did it or not.
Knowing this will make your meetings more successful and every person will be pleased to know they contributed to an effective meeting. People won’t complain about your meetings when you gain the reputation for making effective use of their valuable time with a sharp objective. A successful meeting happens when participants know exactly what they need to accomplish. Meeting prep is key to identifying a sharp objective that is specific, purposeful and timely. A small amount of time invested in the planning of a meeting can increase your meeting effectiveness exponentially. Please sign up for Teaming Edge for more meeting tips and insights.