Volume 14, Issue 1 - January/February 2012

Customer Service
tips for quality service

“Let’s Have a Meeting!”
by Carl Tompkins

Regardless of the type or size of company, one of the most dreaded of all phrases used in conducting business is, “Let’s have a meeting.”

I’ve met very few employees who look forward to meetings and the overwhelming reason why is that they are believed to be a waste of time.

Meetings are Necessary
To fix the problems associated with meetings, allow me to provide the necessary details within particular aspects of meetings.

Yes, meetings are necessary. When meetings are planned and conducted properly, synergy is achieved, and more is accomplished by the whole of the group than what is able to be accomplished by individuals. Having everyone together at the same time to hear the same message and feed off of everyone’s interaction poses great benefits to an organization. Meetings save time since the message can be given to the entire company at one time. This allows for quick implementation of new business strategies and procedures.

“When meetings are planned and conducted properly, synergy is achieved.”

Another great benefit of meetings done well is team-building and cross-selling opportunities. When employees are separated by miles, departments and job responsibilities, coming together can have a positive affect on corporate morale. Meetings may provide the only opportunity for employees to interface with one another, which contributes to team spirit.

Meeting Costs
The biggest drawback to meetings is the cost. The reasons meetings cost more than what is expected is that most owners and managers only consider the cost of the meeting room, travel, room and board. This is the tip of the iceberg. Consider the costs associated with those people in attendance, along with the costs associated with the missed business opportunities by employees not working at their normal job functions. And there are always meeting-related costs that are not budgeted.
Seldom do companies spend exactly what is budgeted; it’s always more.

The reason why meetings seldom result in making any direct contribution toward improved results is that the subject matter is wrong. Too much time is spent on history. Yes, it’s interesting to touch quickly on the past, but anything more than a quick review is a waste of very expensive time. History can be reviewed in an email or written report and requires little explanation. The key is to move on to subjects of the future; this is what impacts future results, remembering that history is fixed.

Since meetings are necessary and cost a lot of money, here are the steps to take toward improving the value and impact of meetings:

1. Have a well-defined, documented meeting purpose. Make sure everyone involved, whether a presenter or audience member, agrees with the meeting purpose and is provided the professional courtesy of responding.

2. Have a well-defined set of targeted outcomes. Make sure that new SMART (specific, measurable, agreeable, realistic and time-bound) goals are set as a result of the meeting and that the entire team is aware, agreeable and accountable.

3. Survey and respond to the needs of employees. Remember that everyone should have a stake in a meeting and that everyone’s needs must be met. Clearing employees’ agendas first paves the way for management to make a positive impact, but only if they go second.

4. Delegate meeting development and presentations. Having as many employees as possible involved in designing the agenda, timing and delivery is the greatest step possible in developing a cohesive team approach toward business success.

5. Have a process to follow up on progress. When the meeting is done, the work begins. Be sure to have a process of keeping everyone informed of the progress made toward the goals and purposes set in the meeting in place. This process should last until the next meeting of similar design. Include a survey of how employees felt about the meeting.
Have a great meeting!

Carl Tompkins is the global marketing resources manager for Sika Corp. in Madison Heights, Mich., and the author of Winning at Business. He is based in Spokane, Wash.

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