Meetings that matter

Are you as tired of meetings as I am? A recent bad experience helped me clarify my thoughts about meetings. See if any of this resonates with you:

  1. Respect everybody’s time

Just because I work from home and don’t seem to have a boss doesn’t mean I am eternally available for casual chats. If anything , my time is much more vulnerable because I earn only as a result of being productive with my time. The person who is on a salary may survive a couple of months before someone realises that she is not actually producing anything.

More than this, value your own time.  What you spend on meetings includes not just the time spent in the meeting but also the preparation and commute for both you and the other person.   So, book a reasonable amount of time, start on time and end on time.

2. Technology is your friend.

If you are a solo-preneur, be comforted by the knowledge that there is whole world of tech out there to protect you from time wasters and lonely friends who just want to hang out in the middle of your working day (I love you though, friends!) The more you demonstrate value for your own time, the more others will respect it. My favourite calendar tool is Calendly.  Our team uses Asana to manage team projects and I appreciate Evernote for capturing my ideas, especially notes from other online sources. For basic book-keeping I trust Wave. 

3. Ask for a meeting only when it’s necessary

I have found that when I push back on someone asking for a meeting and insist they discuss matters over the phone or via email, it becomes clear that actually a meeting was not completely necessary after all.  Most things actually can be discussed, decided and concluded without holding a meeting. 

4. Make the agenda clear

First it’s important to have an agenda.  Then to communicate it, so that the other party or parties manage their expectations of the meeting and contribute to what they would like to see happen in the meeting.  In other words, tell the person, “I’m hoping what will come out of this meeting is…” 

5. Don’t make a meal out of meeting notes. 

In advertising (not sure if they do this in other industries) we work with something called a Contact report or contact notes.  This is a record of any contact with a client or supplier in which a decision is made. The contact report records the decisions and action points coming out of that contact.  Contacts could be meetings,  telephone calls or even conferences. The idea is to record decisions and to track action points.  I still use this system today because I find it helps us avoid lengthy minutes without discarding the key outcomes and action points of meetings and telephone calls.

7. Reveal yourself

No one loves a stalker. If you want a meeting, be very clear and open about who you are, what work you do, who sent you  and where you can be found. Vagaries such as “I’m into computers” must fall. And they must fall now! If you are using an undecipherable email addresss, a snazzy nom de plume on WhatsApp and a dog avatar, please don’t be surprised if people don’t want to meet with you.  A good alternative is:  Hello, My name is Kholwani, I am a mechanic at Honda.  I am calling to ask if you would have an hour to spare for us to discuss the suspension on your vehicle.  We noticed when we serviced it last week that this needed some work, but I thought it may be better if I explain it to you in person so that you can actually see what I am referring to.”  I have never had the guys at Honda ask me for a meeting, but hey, who knows what could happen once everyone reads this….

8. Be wary of Whatsapp

If you are reaching out to someone over Whatsapp for the first time please do yourself a favour and don’t send a message saying “Hie”.  Especially if you spell Hi with an ‘e’ at the end!  If we are not friends, don’t address me as if I am your buddy. And don’t leave two days of silence after your greeting without stating your business. Try: Good morning my name is Panashe. I got your number form Tino Gatsi.  She mentioned you might be looking for some blood red orchids which are out of season and I wanted to let you know that I have some in my hothouse.  If you would like to see them perhaps we could arrange a meeting later this week. Alternatively I can send you photographs. This is my number….

So what do you think?  Are my meeting guidelines unreasonable?  Write back and tell me what tips you have for making meetings better. 

Best love



I have been engaged in an uncomfortable relationship with Facebook for many years now.  At one stage I broke it off, left it for a few years, then re-engaged. With renewed commitment and the best will in the world, I have to confess that I still don’t love it. I still feel a heaviness in my heart when I click on it, and a sense of disconnectedness when I am engaging on the platform. 

So why would I not stage another more permanent break-up, you’re wondering? I guess I was just afraid to be different, which is a bit rich coming from a speaker who is always telling others to have the courage of their convictions. So then I asked myself, if Thembe Khumalo was a client of mine what would I say to her about her personal brand and its relationship with Facebook?  Well, I wouldn’t tell her anything.  I would simply ask a few questions:  

  1. Why are you on Facebook?  

The “Why?” Question is one we ask clients all the time, and we are no longer amazed at how often people don’t have a good reason for the things they are doing.  Sometimes they do have a reason, but it’s so vague and general that it may as well not be a reason.  My reason for being on Facebook was that I thought it would be a good way to grow my brand online, to reach audiences with my content and to engage with them so that I can know more about what they need from me. 

2. Is it doing what you have employed it to do for you?  

This one would elicit one of the “Yes and also no,” responses that can be very tedious. Facebook does help me reaching audiences, but because of the way I use it, it’s not delivering the level of engagement that it should. And the reason I use it that way is because I am so uncomfortable with it that I spend the least possible amount of time on the platform. 

By this stage it would not take a rocket scientist to tell the client that the chances of a rewarding relationship were not good. But there would be a chance that it could still be salvaged, so we would proceed to the third and final question:

3. Are you prepared to make the necessary adjustments to make it deliver?

This question speaks to investments in time, level of interest and perceived benefit. If my client Thembe wasn’t prepared to invest some effort into repairing her relationship with FB, then, ladies and gentlemen I would call it a wrap.

I would also point out to my client that there is in fact more harm than good being done if you are on a platform and you misuse it.  If you are slow to respond to your community, inconsistent in your delivery of content, and failing to create deeper engagement, then you are likely to alienate rather than attract the kinds of people you want in your community.  You are better off not being at the party, than being there and behaving badly! 

Yes, I work in the media, and I recommend social media to clients on a daily basis, so it would seem kind of odd if I don’t use it myself.  But the truth about any media platform is that not every platform is right for every brand or even for every season in a particular brand’s life cycle; and that is exactly what we demonstrate to our clients every day. Facebook may well have the largest number of users of any social media platform but that doesn’t mean those people will automatically gravitate to your business.  Nor does it mean those are the people you want as customers. Once we recognise that everything isn’t for everybody, that we have to have a lot of clarity about which customers we really, truly want; that we should focus on only the best ways to reach them rather than trying out all the possible ways to reach them; then we can begin to build an effective strategy for communicating with them.

So for me, that means bye-bye Facebook for my personal brand.  

But remember, it doesn’t have to mean the same for you. 


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