Five execs sat together in the conference room while several more joined via conference call. They were ready to discuss a proposed process change. The concept was important and the idea seemed good – it would ensure artifacts created under the contract were housed in one repository from cradle to grave and ensure that that every group followed the same process so the company would be more compliant with industry standards. Input from all areas was needed to ensure the process met everyone’s needs, so a meeting was set.
But what happened next was a disaster.
Dan, the meeting organizer, made his opening remarks. And then he continued talking… and talking… but not about the slated subject. He rambled on about several things he had thought of discussing after he had sent out the agenda, oblivious to the other executives’ rising anger and decreasing interest, and not getting to the planned items until halfway into the hour. Then he asked whether everyone could stay after the scheduled time. Of course, most couldn’t.
His participants were not pleased. Sadly, Dan wasted the time he had with some very important people and found cooperation difficult to attain going forward.
When it comes to executive meetings, every effort should be made to ensure they are highly engaging, collaborative, and productive. Here are 7 ways to make sure your executive meetings are worth your executives’ time.
1. Distribute materials and an agenda at least 48 hours in advance
Give participants time to familiarize themselves with the material, which allows you to dive right in when the meeting starts, rather than wasting time bringing people up to speed.
2. Schedule the meeting for the morning
Only so many challenges can be met in a day before tiredness takes its toll. Your executives will typically be sharpest early.
3. Adjust the agenda if needed and communicate any changes as soon as possible
Distributing agendas early might mean priorities change by the time the meeting is held. In these cases, it’s important to inform others as soon as possible. (Dan’s participants might not have minded discussing the other subjects if they’d had time to plan.)
4. Assign a note-taker to keep an accurate record of discussions and decisions
Other things will demand your executives’ time immediately after the meeting is over, so help them remember the conversation by distributing notes and action items.
5. Schedule breaks for meetings longer than 90 minutes
It’s best to keep the meeting as short as possible, but sometimes longer meetings are critical. In those cases, regular breaks are essential to allow executives to check in with their teams if necessary and for mental freshness.
6. Conclude the meeting with a summary of important “takeaways”
This is particularly helpful if the meeting resulted in decisions that affect company directives or policies. This ensures participants have the same understanding and gives them one last chance to clarify.
7. Wrap up 10 to 15 minutes before the scheduled time
If your goal is ending early, ending as scheduled becomes the worst-case scenario.
Applying these 7 strategies to every executive meeting will help you ensure they stand out as the engaging, collaborative, and productive forums they were meant to be. Executives will be happier and more cooperative when they see that you understand the value of their time!