How to Have Highly Effective Meetings

March 19th, 2012

How to have highly effective meetings: 3 Simple ways to be productive and present while meeting

By guest blogger, Alexa Cole, VP of Client Services at Cole Consulting

“Be present, be exactly where you are.”

Lately I’ve been having a lot of meetings with colleagues and coffee’s to network with Bay Area consultants such as myself. It has raised the question, how do I know that my meetings are being effective and helping me achieve measurable results? I feel good when I leave with a to-do list of items to research or people to further reach out to. That is a measurable, quantitative end goal to taking an hour out of my day for a lunch with someone. However, if I don’t leave with a to-do list, only a business card or another connection with a new person, I am still enriched just the same. Down the road, I may call on that same person for guidance or help or be able to refer someone to them for useful services. I had the epiphany that I can measure a successful meeting, either in the office or out networking, by following three simple guidelines:

  • Be present, be exactly where you are. When you’re meeting with someone for 15 minutes, or even for an hour, try to be present with that person completely. Resist checking your phone or answering calls. Be clear on the front end how much time you have for that person and set the parameters in the beginning. That way you’ll know when the time is up and so will they. Try to make your surroundings comfortable for you and your partner. If you have the time and space, offer to take the meeting outside so you can be present even more fully without the distractions of the office and possible interruptions.
  • Honor the time. Know that your colleagues, as well as you, have a million things to do in a day and that carving out a meeting time is sacred ground. Try to take it seriously and have an agenda or at least a set of things in mind that you want to discuss and accomplish. If things start to veer off course, politely remind your partner why you are meeting and what you would like to get out of your time together.
  • Follow up. Have you ever had guests over to your home and been pleasantly surprised when the following day or week you receive a card or email thanking you for your hospitality? The same thing is true for a meeting with a colleague, where saying “thank you” as a follow up email or card can make such a difference. Even if you are following up on deliverables, make sure to include a separate paragraph thanking the person for taking the time to meet with you and being present. At the same time, log their business card or the hours worked together in your Rolodex so you can keep track of your meetings’ productivity. If it’s a meeting with someone you haven’t worked with before, put his or her business card immediately in your Rolodex should you have to call on that person again down the road.

It is also helpful to assign roles to members of the meeting and lay groundwork for mutual respect.

Read more from Cole Consulting on other useful meeting tips.