Did you ever lead meetings in your career, prior to your decision to enter the independent consultant’s profession? If not, you will need to get used to leading them, and even if you are experienced in running successful meetings, things will be a little different in your new role.
For one thing, your income and reputation will be directly tied to the productivity of your meetings and to their outcomes. That means you must ensure that all your meetings add value to your consulting services.
Successful Meetings: More Than an Agenda
While the task of controlling a meeting and getting the most from participants is important for success, solid preparation is what makes the real difference.
Unfortunately, preparation is also the element most frequently overlooked, even by veterans with hundreds of business and project meetings under their belts.
Solid preparation means a lot more than having a planned agenda of topics to cover. In this post, you’ll find a list of four prerequisites for successful meetings, which (although challenging in an environment where your clients will typically lead proceedings) you should try to ensure are covered off each and every time.
The 4 Independent Consultant’s Meeting Prerequisites
- Challenge the value: Calling a meeting is often an automatic response to the need for decisions to be made or information to be exchanged.
However, less time-consuming ways of achieving the same objectives are often possible, and might well be more effective. Before agreeing to a meeting, seek to determine if there is a better way to achieve your aims, or those of your client.
- Try to limit attendance: The more participants are present in a meeting, the greater is the challenge in meeting its objectives.
Try to make sure that the only people participating in any meeting are those who must be present to make a decision or who have something material to contribute. Anybody else should be able to manage with a copy of the meeting notes and action points.
- Minimise activities during meetings: Many meeting hours are wasted when tasks are executed in the conference room unnecessarily.
These are typically activities which individuals could have completed ahead of the meeting. Try to work with your client to complete these jobs in advance, keeping meeting time free for the things which must be attended to as a group.
- Make sure critical data is in hand: Meetings often take place with insufficient information, leading to deferred decisions or assignments and the need for further follow-up meetings.
This can be avoided if participants are tasked with gathering all necessary information, and if you follow-up with them before the meeting starts to ensure they have what’s required. If any information is not ready, postponing the meeting will be better than discovering the data shortage in mid-session.
Set Yourself Up For Successful Meetings
The four prerequisites that I point out in this post are important for any meeting, but they are not necessarily the only ones that exist. Others will depend upon the purpose of the meeting.
In general, I believe it wise to try to keep meetings to a minimum, since even a one-hour session can amount to a lot of man-hours, which in turn amounts to a lot of expense.
Of course when your clients are adamant that a meeting is required, it’s not wise to object, and in many cases, it will be the right way to meet an objective. Just don’t short-change your clients by limiting preparation to the publishing of an agenda. The most successful and productive meetings are usually those for which preparation-time exceeds the hours burned in the conference room.
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