Every meeting has a purpose. That goes without saying, right?
No, actually not. Oftentimes, meetings have agendas, but no goals for what should be accomplished. People talk, people listen, but no one makes any progress.
That’s why the purpose of your meeting — that is, what you want to accomplish — must be clearly communicated at every meeting. It will help keep everyone focused, and, as a result, make your meeting productive.
The first step in holding a productive meeting is determining what you want to accomplish. This requires you sitting down before your meeting and focusing on the four W’s — wish, worst-case, will and without — which are explained below.
- What is your wish for this meeting? What’s the ideal outcome? Why are we here? If people are investing their time and effort, they need a compelling purpose to attend a meeting. Have an ideal outcome in mind — and share it with those attending the meeting. For example, if you and your sales manager are going to meet with a new prospect, the purpose of the meeting may be to review your new products with this prospect. But, the ideal outcome is the prospect placing an order for the new products. Therefore, it is imperative you and your sales manager go into the meeting with a mutual understanding of the objectives. By making sure you and everyone attending the meeting are on the same track, you can act together to reach the desired outcome.
- What is the worst-case outcome for this meeting? We don’t ask this question to focus on the negative, but to reveal our fears about what might happen at the meeting. Sometimes, for a sales call, my worst-case outcome is that my prospect might throw me out of his office — that’s what I fear. Somewhere in my mind, I think about that possibility and the subsequent embarrassment if that occurred. Of course, once I say it out loud, I can see how unlikely it is. Though this has never happened to me (even on my worst day), nor anything like it, by speaking these worst-case scenarios out loud, it takes some of the power and fear out of it.
Other times, our worst-case scenario is more realistic. If I am visiting a customer to resolve a complaint, it is plausible that he may choose to do business with someone else. If that’s the case, talking about this outcome can prepare me to handle the situation, if it should occur.
- What will we realistically accomplish in this meeting? Now that we have voiced our ambitions and fears, we are ready to talk about the meeting from a realistic perspective. Think about the key issues you want to discuss during the meeting, while thinking about realistic hurdles. This could be anything from keeping Sally from getting off track like she always does, or dealing with an extremely arrogant client. Think about ways you can jump over these hurdles — and you will.
- What will we not leave without? We all have been in those meetings that seem to go sideways. It wasn’t a bad meeting; in fact, important things were discussed. But, the one or two things that we really needed to decide weren’t decided. In those instances, focus on accomplishing a minimum goal. If you are making a sales call, ask for the order. If you are working on an ongoing project, establish a future timeline. If you are negotiating, don’t leave without a clear understanding of the other side’s position. If you attend the meeting with another person, make sure your goals are clear — we won’t pack up our stuff, and we won’t shift in our chair, until we have these things covered.
Business people want and need results — and answering the four W’s before your next meeting will help you attain your results. Your coworkers, clients, vendors and prospects will be impressed with your ability to focus and get the job done — and you’ll be satisfied, too.
Photo credit: decoded_conf