‘This could have been an email’
No matter the industry, meetings are often a necessary part of doing business. Research from careers website Zippia found that the average worker spends about three hours in meetings each week — while 30% say they spend on average more than five hours a week in them.
"...the average worker spends about three hours in meetings each week..."
And the financial services industry is not immune to being meeting heavy. Whether you’re sitting down with a new client for the first time or checking in with your staff, you’ll want to make sure that you’re using your clients’ time wisely. However, there are many pitfalls, and chances are you’ve experienced many of them. They can run too long, they can lose focus, and of course there’s the dreaded “meeting that could have been an email.”
Poorly run meetings are more than just an annoyance, they’re bad for business. According to Zippia, they waste more than $37 billion per year and collectively organizations spend about 15% of their time in meetings.
“When we have a bad meeting, it sticks with us, and we ruminate, and it negatively affects our productivity,” Steven Rogelberg, author of “The Surprising Science of Meetings,” told The Washington Post.
So how do you avoid some of these common problems? We spoke to several experienced industry experts on some of the best ways to get the most out of your meetings.
Set an agenda and stick to it
Lack of direction is one of the biggest complaints many attendees have when leaving a meeting. This issue can crop up even before a meeting starts — if there are no clear objectives or agenda ahead of time, how can anyone prepare?
“First, decide if a meeting is needed in the first place,” says Erica Keswin, Workplace strategist and bestselling author of "The Retention Revolution.” "Ask what’s the intention of the meeting? If it’s to collaborate and innovate, or to connect on a deeper, personal level with colleagues, or to discuss sensitive or complex issues, a meeting is a solid medium. But nine times out of 10, a status update or the dispensing of information can be sent out via email, Slack, or other messaging platform.”
This is a strategy that Dan Hobbs, the CEO at Protex.ai, has also found success with implementing. By setting clear expectations, it “helps everyone involved understand what the meeting is about and helps them prepare in advance. This makes the meeting more productive.”
Consider the guest list
In addition to having a clear idea of what the meeting is about, you should also be deliberate about who is involved and why. Having people who aren’t necessarily essential to the discussion at hand may be a drag for them and could make it difficult to streamline the effectiveness of the meeting.
"Every meeting should wrap up with some sort of actionable plan."
Make the guest list exclusive—only invite those who need to be there to move your project or mission forward,” Keswin says. “In fact, you could even have people only come during their specific relevant section of a meeting and then let them leave after [like Netflix does].”
She adds that the last thing you want are “meetings full of employees that are distracted and unprepared,” since they are a waste of time for everyone involved.
Leave with a plan
Every meeting should wrap up with some sort of actionable plan. This is often referred to with the acronym W.W.D.W.B.W; or: “who will do what by when?” It’s a good way to remember the goal of any meeting.
For example, if you’re having a meeting with your staff about onboarding a new client, make sure everyone involved leaves with clear directives on what they need to accomplish by the end of the day or week to make sure the task is completed.
Follow up and follow through
It’s not enough to just end the meeting with a plan, you have to follow up on it. For example, if you have an initial meeting with a client, checking in afterward to provide them with an update on whether the action items have been taken care of may strengthen your relationship with them.
"Following up after a meeting shows that you respect people's time and that you're committed to the plan and one another." Erik Snyder, a financial professional at Morgan Stanley, says.
Remember the ‘three Ps’
More than anything else, Keswin recommends focusing on what she calls the “three Ps”: Purpose, presence, and protocols. Let’s take a closer look at what these pillars entail:
- Purpose: In other words, why are you meeting in the first place?
- Presence: Make sure attendees are not only physically present, but mentally present as well.
- Protocols: Set ground rules to make sure everyone knows what’s expected of them.
Regardless of the purpose of your meeting, keeping this framework in mind may help ensure a beneficial and worthwhile experience for everyone involved.