Meetings are a necessary part of doing business. But without careful planning, they can turn into time-consuming and unproductive affairs.

Where would we be without business meetings? Even in the current Zoom format that we are all utilizing.

It’s the place where we make decisions, outline plans of action, and sometimes… make history.

It’s also necessary for expanding our business.

One of my clients, Dome, recently signed on six new corporate clients in one month. 

Talk about a win!

But he may not have gotten those new clients without a meeting or two to iron out some details.

Dome’s experience, though, isn’t the norm.

His meetings were obviously productive and landed him new clients. But the rest of the business world may not get the same results.

In fact, U.S. companies will waste up to $399 billion in pointless meetings due to lack of productivity in 2019. According to a new study, poorly organized meetings have a variety of negative effects on the company.

The biggest problems with pointless meetings are poor productivity, confusion, and loss of focus. 

And that’s on top of the monetary loss!

In addition, pointless meetings may be detrimental to client relationships.

Don’t let poorly planned meetings be the downfall of your firm.

Take a look at these steps that will make your meetings more efficient and effective.

3 Steps to Plan a Successful Meeting Framework

What’s your meeting style?

Do you jot down a few notes on a memo pad and take an organic approach?

Or do you take the time to plan out the meeting?

I hate to break it to you, but if you want to avoid wasting time and money, it’s time to plan.

Step #1 – Define the Purpose

First, you need to define your purpose.

That means you have to ask yourself why you are having the meeting in the first place.

Generally, meetings have a variety of purposes like:

  • Sharing information
  • Creating solutions
  • Making decisions
  • Building relationships

You may find that often you have multiple purposes for a meeting.

That’s okay as long as you structure it correctly.

A well-planned meeting can cover many purposes at once.

Also, you need to define your objective.

Along with the “why,” you need to outline your “want.” 

What do you want the meeting to accomplish?

You need to have a reason to have a meeting or everyone will simply talk circles around each other.

Start by setting clear objectives for your meeting so you know how to steer it if it goes off track.

Step #2 – Identify the Agenda

Why do you need an agenda?

This helps you keep control of the meeting. You know what you’re going to talk about, when, and why. Switch your approach to clients from reactive to proactive.

The benefits work both ways, too.

If you have an agenda, you can stay focused on delivering results. It helps you stay focused and organized. And it ensures that you stay on track the entire time.

From a client’s perspective, they see what you’re working on. And they understand the next steps.

Make sure that your agenda covers:

  • Details
  • Concerns
  • Issues
  • Objectives 
  • New topics

This ensures that you cover everything you need to and use everyone’s time efficiently.

Try breaking up your agenda into a framework of past, present, and future.

Opening with the past allows you to cover what you already accomplished with clients. It sets a timeline for the client. And it’s easier to see that you made progress for them.

If you start with the present or the future, it’s hard for them to remember what you already did.

Starting with the past, though, anchors the rest of the meeting with a demonstration of results.

Next, you want to cover what you’re currently working on.

This could be what you agreed to work on over the next few days or weeks. Clients are up to speed during this stage of your meeting. And it’s a great time to make sure you’re still on the same page.

It also has the added benefit of showing the client that you’re solving their problem. You add value to your service when you let them know how you’re helping them toward their goals.

Lastly, planning for the future allows you to add future value. During this stage, you can identify new opportunities.

And that means more projects for your firm!

You’ll have laid the groundwork to prove your value, after all. The meeting started with the results you previously delivered. And it’s still fresh in their mind.

Step #3 – Set the Timeframe

Step #3 – Set the Timeframe

We’ve all attended meetings that go over the stated time. It happens sometimes.

You can combat that by setting a timeframe for the meeting.

Having an agenda can help you keep a meeting on track. And it can help you devise a realistic timeframe in the first place.

How many new items will you cover?

Is this just a check-in meeting?

Keep in mind that your clients or employees may have agendas of their own. Factor that into your timeframe. Give them adequate time to voice their ideas without feeling rushed.

Tips to Make a Consulting Meeting Successful

Are you ready to sign on six large clients in a month?

How about building relationships with existing clients?

You can do it with the right structure!

Take a look at some tips to steer your meetings in the right direction.

#1 – Have a Meeting Organizer

Meetings consume a lot of company resources and time. And we know that clients don’t appreciate feeling like they wasted their time.

One of the first steps in the right direction is to establish a meeting organizer. You can choose someone within your firm or do it yourself.

Whoever takes on this role, make sure they do the following things:

  • Figure out the participants and logistics
  • Arrange for the resources (conference room, equipment)
  • Send out the invite for the meeting
  • Define and pass out the agenda
  • Establish a facilitator and minute taker
  • Let participants know if they need to make any preparations

#2 – Know the “Backstory” of the Meeting

When you want to win a client, you need to make proper preparation. That means that you do your research and find out their history and issues.

This is the “backstory” that you need to get familiar with.

There’s nothing worse than inadvertently saying the wrong thing because you didn’t do proper research. But when you know the backstory, you can pitch your service. And you can cite specific examples that your client can understand.

My client, Adam, just secured his first advisory contract with an existing client. 

How did he do it?

He knew his client’s backstory. And he knew exactly what to say to show the client how he could help them accomplish their goals.

#3 – Ready Your Materials

Also, meetings are more productive if you identify what materials to use beforehand. They also have the added benefit of making you appear more professional.

If you want to impress a client, consider adding materials like:

  • PowerPoint presentations
  • Handouts
  • Company briefs

You don’t need to limit your materials to traditional ones, though.

Paula is a client of mine that took her materials to a new visual level. She used a Q&A video to help land potential clients.

Are videos the right choice for your meeting?

It really depends on your client.

This goes back to that “backstory” point.

Otherwise, there’s no shame in using traditional materials.

#4 – Start and End on Time

Don’t you hate going to meetings that start late or go over?

You feel like the person doesn’t respect your time, right?

That’s exactly how a client feels. And it’s not a good way to begin a consulting meeting.

They took time out of their busy schedules to meet with you. The least you can do is show them that you respect and appreciate their time.

#5 – Be Cautious of Time

To start and end a meeting on time, you have to watch your meeting time. 

I know that sometimes discussions go off-course. That’s part of life.

The key, though, is knowing how to steer a conversation back. 

Agendas work as great timekeepers in this respect. Referring back to the agenda ensures that you cover the important points and still end the meeting on time.

If a discussion needs further exploration, you can always schedule a future meeting.

#6 – Keep Notes

Finally, don’t gloss over the importance of meeting minutes. If you don’t have a dedicated minute taker, make sure that you keep notes yourself.

They’re invaluable for the next step.

You want to send meeting minutes to clients after a meeting is over. 

Trust me on this.

It reminds clients of the topics discussed and decisions made. And it shows them that you provide value because your meeting was productive.

Accounting clients tend to stay with a firm for life. When you land one, you can count on their business for years to come. 

Not only do you receive more work from these clients. But they can also refer you to more potential clients in the long run.

It also has the added benefit of giving your confidence a little boost.

And who couldn’t use a little more of that?

In Summary…

Meetings are notorious black holes that suck the time and energy of those who attend them.

At least… they could be if you don’t plan them the right way.

You can’t get away from business meetings. They’re the lifeblood of the business world. But you don’t have to be yet another statistic.

Use the 3-Step Framework to structure your future meetings. Define your purpose, write that agenda, and look at the time.

Respect everyone’s time. You’ll find that your clients appreciate you more for it.