The other day one of my coaching clients asked me, with a mixture of exhaustion in his posture, resignation in his voice and a small glimmer of hope in his eyes “How can I stop having to attend so many meetings?!”
I felt for him. He has recently been promoted to a Board position and as per the usual he is struggling to back-fill his previous role, as well as get his current team onside, make the right impact with the other Board members – his new Peers – and handle some immediate and pressing challenges. It seemed he didn’t have enough time in any given day. So we worked out a plan and by the end of the meeting he felt somewhat relieved that at least now he HAS a plan for how meeting invitations will be reviewed, assessed and deal with. He will still have to attend lots of meetings – that’s simply a part of his senior role – but he will no longer feel as if he is held bound and captive to a schedule outside his control.
Something else we have talked about many times in the past is how to prepare for meetings. Some would say you can never be too prepared going into a meeting – and perhaps this is a good starting point, but being WELL prepared will give anyone a more calm and purposeful feeling and it increases your chances of getting a good outcome (or at least avoiding a bad one) by about 70%.
Meetings attended + good preparation = better outcomes
x less stress & more success = A Happier Meeting-Going Bunny (Exec, Manager, worker)
Here are five ways to be better prepared and make better use of the time you spend in meetings – my client applies this thinking and reports excellent results from doing so:
1. Lock in on Logistics
- Confirm the date, time, location and who will be in the meeting as soon as possible. It looks disorganized and unprofessional if you wait until the day of the meeting. If your meeting is in a location you have never been to, Google the map and/or tube journey at least a day prior. Be sure you know what time you need to leave and get to the meeting a few minutes early. Get online and look up traffic problems and construction prior to leaving.
- Pack everything you need to take with you or at
- least have a list to use before you leave to make sure you have all you need. Again, don’t wait until the last minute. Do it the night before if it is a morning meeting or first thing in the morning if it is an afternoon meeting.
2. Research and Plan
- Review the company and everyone who will be there – on Google, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
- Give yourself a good hour or more to do this and do it a few days in advance if you can. This will give you time to think about what you need to do and say – and help you know whether you need to contact someone else for more information.
- Watch the news or scan the headlines online before you leave for the meeting to see if there is anything happening in the world that relates to you, your meeting, their company or the people you are meeting with. If there is, you will show that you are sharp and on top of things in the meeting.
Most importantly, ask yourself these three questions:
- What is your purpose for attending this meeting? Be clear in your own mind why you are going into this meeting: what your ideal outcomes are. This will help you prepare to achieve those outcomes, or something as near them as possible. Speaking of which, also have a back-up plan in mind.
- Who can give you what you want or need to achieve your meeting goal? Perhaps there is someone you can contact beforehand to understand the other party’s position and interests, so that you can prepare accordingly.
- What’s in it for them? If it’s a presentation or sales pitch, ask yourself these
- questions: “What’s in it for them? What challenges does the other party need to address, and how can you help them? What is the decision-maker’s goal?” If you don’t know, don’t hesitate to ask open questions about their motivations and objectives, and be prepared to provide examples and evidence of how you can help them achieve it.
3. Attitude is Everything
Ensure your mental attitude is positive and open. If you go into any conversation with limiting or negative beliefs – about yourself, the situation or the other party(ies), the chances of positive outcomes are drastically reduced. Instead, ask yourself positive, productive questions such as “What more do I need to understand to provide the best solutions?” “How can I demonstrate my experience and expertise?”
4. Employ the power of Body Language and Vocal Impact.
No matter how great you are, how relevant or impressive your content or how articulate your speech, both body language and vocal impact will make a huge difference as to how much presence and credibility you have in any meeting or presentation.
5. Presenting yourself
Decide how you want to present yourself in the context of this meeting, and make sure everything is clean, groomed and organised the night before: clothes, shoes, accessories. This will save you time and stress on the day – so that in as little time as possible you can get ready to present yourself in an appropriate manner. Identify the kind of organisation you are visiting as to style; the best practice is to match or dress slightly more smartly.
This is a straightforward process you can follow for any meeting and if you prepare this way you will be calmer, more confident, more purposeful and more resourceful – and your chances of positive outcomes will be improved significantly.