A couple of people outside of Account Management suggested that it might be a good idea to have a refresher for senior people and a new communication to new account people about the components of effectively running a meeting.
While much of the following may be common sense practice, we all often get off track because individuals have hidden agendas that emerge in a meeting or assertive individuals (sometimes clients) try to take over the meeting.
So here are my “Ten Commandments for an Effective Meeting”
1. Unless agreed to otherwise, the account person should be the leader of the meeting, which means having the responsibility for agenda, attendees, time, duration, refreshments and managing the outcome of the meeting.
2. Be compulsively organized. Have an agenda done. Make sure everyone knows when and where the meeting is. Have any materials/equipment that might be needed for the meeting, in the room in advance of the meeting. Make sure the room is big enough. Schedule the meeting to last long enough to cover the agenda. Think through everything you might need or want before the meeting and make sure it all gets done.
3. Customize your agenda. The more formal the meeting, the more necessary it is to have a specific agenda (usually written) that should be reviewed at the start of the meeting. Less formal meetings can use an oral review of agenda. It may often make sense to review the agenda with the key attendees prior to the meeting, to ensure that what they want covered will be addressed.
4. Choose attendees appropriately. By and large, meeting attendance should be limited only to people who have a contribution to make or a need to know the content and outcome of the meeting. This, of course, should be balanced against training opportunities to expose junior people to new areas and learning situations.
5. As leader of the meeting, the account person should manage and orchestrate the meeting. This would include, reviewing the agenda, setting the time parameters, outlining expectations and outcomes and summarizing meeting deliverables. The account person should make sure that everyone is in agreement with all of that and be given the opportunity to amend it or add to it.
6. Manage the tone and tempo of the meeting. Keep the meeting on topic. Try not to let it turn into a negative, gripe session. Keep the comments constructive, positive and moving towards solutions or actions that will lead to solutions. Keep the pace of the meeting moving. Know when to move from one topic to another. Summarize the discussion of each topic before you move on to the next one.
7. Show compassion for the attendees. Solicit opinions and viewpoints of attendees. Be cognizant that not everyone is a type-A personality. Some people need to listen and absorb before they speak. But give everyone an opportunity to voice their point of view. Do not allow constant interruptions or more than one discussion to go on at the same time. Make sure that people are courteous and polite to each other, even if they are in disagreement.
8. End the meeting with a summary of agreements and action steps. Make sure that everyone is on the same page as to what these are. And be very clear on who has responsibility for each action and what the timing/due dates of those actions are. Try to never leave a meeting with unresolved issues or unanswered questions.
9. Determine the appropriate post-meeting follow up. Formal client meetings will require a conference report. Some meetings may only need an informal re-cap. First-time meetings often require a need for a “thank you, great to meet you” note. And sometimes it may need a face-to-face check-in with people to make sure that they are clear on what they are supposed to do.
10. Remember that good meetings are important, but they are not the end game. They are the means to the end. Having a series of great meetings that everyone feels good about may make for good interim reports, but as the account person, you are responsible for coordinating the actions that get results.
Meetings are a necessary part of our business. Use them strategically to build team morale, to develop good internal and external relations or even as a training tool.
But as the account person, always remember – it’s your meeting.
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