One of the many things a client expects from their consultants and professional service providers is to facilitate meetings for them. This week we discuss some of the critical approaches for successful client meeting management.
Answer: Well that’s a tough one because there are so many. I think one thing that a consultant needs to do is be prepared. When you schedule a meeting the best preparation you can do is have an agenda. This should show that you’ve defined the purpose for the meeting and specific items you want to discuss.
Another aspect is when you are not the one that scheduled the meeting. It’s important to understand the purpose of the meeting and be prepared for any questions that you may be asked. You need to assume that you have been invited for a purpose and make sure that you don’t waste anyone’s time by not being able to provide information that they expect from you.
Also, I’ve been in situations where someone at the client schedules the meeting. When everyone sat down, that person turned to me and “OK, you can go ahead and start”. Clients often like to dump things in the consultant’s lap, so it’s good to be prepared for it.
2 – Why would a client do that to a consultant?
Answer: Usually to deflect a difficult political situation. If the meeting is to point out a flaw on some process, it’s easier to have a neutral party bring up a touchy issue, especially if it’s directed at a higher level person.
Sometimes it’s just a miscommunication. I’ve been in discussions with client personnel and we both agree that a meeting should be called and they offer to schedule it. They may assume the consultant will run it. The consultant just needs to understand the expectation and not make the same assumptions.
3 – What else does a consultant need to keep in mind when facilitating a meeting with the client?
Answer: The attendance list is very important. And sometimes you need to know the culture of the company to get it right. If you invite people that don’t need to be there, they may get upset that you wasted their time. On the other hand, if you exclude people and they find out a meeting was held without them, you risk offending them for that.
4 – So how do you avoid that?
Answer: It’s not always possible. But there are steps you can do to reduce it. If you aren’t sure someone should be invited, send them an email explaining that you are planning to schedule a meeting, explain the purpose and ask if they would like to attend, send someone as a proxy or if they would just like to have the meeting notes distributed afterwards.
This gives them a couple of options and allows them to decide. It also lets them know there are options other than attending.
My goal is to have as few people in a meeting as possible. That’s for two reasons. First, I hate wasting people’s time. I’m a big believer that time is money. If I have a one-hour meeting with 10 people and it was only necessary to have 6, I’ve essentially wasted 4 collective hours of the company’s time.
The second reason is that for every additional person you add to a meeting, it becomes exponentially less productive. Each person feels the need to justify their attendance with comments.
5 – What other preparation steps should a consultant do to make sure the meeting is a success?
Answer: Make sure that everything in the room is ready. If you need a projector, white board or easel, make sure ahead of time that it’s all in the room. Also, if you’re using electronics, like a projector, get there in plenty of time to make sure it connects so that you don’t waste the client’s time with technical difficulty.
6 – Any other final suggestions regarding meetings?
Answer: Always be at least a few minutes early. We’ve talked about this before in previous podcasts but it bears repeating because I think it’s so important.
If you’re not on time you’re late, right? This applies really to anyone working in the business world. Be ready to start the meeting at the meeting start time.