The importance of meeting skills
Getting a startup off the ground requires a significant dose of collaboration. That means having a lot of meetings. After all, to build your business, you have to rally your team, plan your strategy, and sell your idea to investors and potential customers. As a result, your meeting skills are vital.
When people think of a startup, they often envision a solitary inventor perfecting a billion-dollar idea. They picture a movie montage set in a messy garage, with quick cuts of the lonely visionary painstakingly building a prototype for their sure-fire, get-rich product. But, in reality, things usually take a far less dramatic course. Instead, launching a new business mostly involves a string of highly-detailed conversations taking place in stuffy conference rooms. It’s a less romantic view of entrepreneurship, but a far more accurate one.
This fact means that your meeting skills become a key component of your ability to accelerate growth at your startup. By honing your ability to lead a group session, you can make your team more productive and your sales pitches more effective.
Here are a few steps you can take to master the art of the meeting:
Know your goals
Don’t go into a meeting blind. You’ll only end up wasting everyone’s time. Instead, think about what you want to have accomplished by the end of the meeting. Once you know what you want, it’s easier to steer things in that direction.
Prepare an agenda
A goal is one thing. Figuring out how to get there is quite another. Don’t just map out a vague goal going into a group discussion. Instead, detail how you will accomplish your objective.
Layout a detailed agenda of how the meeting will progress. Know who will speak, in what order, and what topics you want to cover.
Keep the guest list short
A large conclave can become unwieldy. Invite too many people and the event becomes difficult to manage. It can even make the logistics challenging, in that you might have trouble finding a big enough conference room.
Instead, only invite the key personnel, the individuals who really need to be there. You can disseminate the results of the meeting to everyone else later.
Get others involved
The purpose of a meeting is to have a multi-headed conversation. If you just want to distribute information, you could issue a memo or write an email. At the meeting, you want to receive feedback and share ideas.
As such, don’t monopolize the conversation. Leave time in the agenda for others to share their ideas. Also, warn people ahead of time about the topic, so they can prepare detailed responses.
Stay On Task
While you want to let everyone have their say, don’t let the conversation meander too much. Stick to the subject of the meeting.
It’s not always easy. People will sometimes use a meeting (any meeting) as an excuse to bring up other topics. When that happens, table the subject for another time, and get back to the agenda.
Watch the Clock
Meetings can eat up a lot of otherwise productive time. Think about it: if you get ten people together for a two-hour meeting, that equates to 20 total hours spent at the event. That’s equivalent to a half a week’s work for a typical employee.
As such, keep the meeting as brief as possible. Set a time limit based on the importance of the subject and the complexity of the meeting’s goal. During the event, keep an eye on the clock and don’t let the conversation go much past the pre-set deadline.
Sometimes, it’s difficult to keep control of a conversation. This is especially true at a startup when you are trying to build alliances with other companies or draw in investors who you might not know especially well.
You can overcome this problem with professional help. As your startup looks outside the firm for additional support, consider partnering session facilitation. The service allows you to bring in skilled business moderators, who will provide needed guidance and make negotiations more productive.
Keep a record of what was said at the meeting. This way, you have a reference if there is a subsequent dispute, or if you just need a reminder down the road, when the details become a little fuzzy.
The notes will also help you notify other interested parties about what happened during the discussion. Not all stakeholders will be present at every meeting, so writing down the information helps keep everyone in the loop.
Maintain Momentum by Following Up
Continue to practice meeting skills. The meeting doesn’t represent the end of the discussion. Even if the conversation reaches a definitive decision, further action will likely need to take place in the aftermath.
Leave each meeting knowing what has to happen next. Let everyone know the action plan and follow up regularly to make sure all the key players deliver on their part of the project.
Sylvia Peters is a Collaborator for Find A Facilitator and a mother of two.
She’s also an expert to bringing the most credible, experienced and personable facilitation to every meeting she attended. In her free time you will find her meditating and making her favorite salad.