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

Thembe