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9 Tips to Have a Productive Meeting Every Time

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Without warning, your manager calls a status update meeting. You groan, put your stuff down, and shuffle off to the conference room.

The meeting starts off well, but then it goes down a rabbit hole. Your manager can’t seem to follow the agenda and keeps going on tangents. On top of that, you have a deadline to meet in an hour. That’s when you start questioning why this meeting was called in the first place. 

In the U.S., unproductive meetings cost an estimated $399 billion each year. They not only waste money but also irritate team members and slow the pace of work.

Making meetings productive and efficient is a business imperative. Here are some ways to make the most of every work meeting:

1. Finish Priorities Ahead of Time 

During a meeting, you shouldn’t be worried about the time you have to complete your tasks. Make it a point to finish your priorities beforehand so you can focus on the conversation.

Use the Pomodoro Technique to get ahead. With the method, you focus deeply on one task for any amount of time you like — often 5, 20, or 45 minutes. During that time, you do nothing but the task you set out for yourself. That means no checking Facebook or updating Twitter. After that time is over, take a short break before repeating the cycle.

2. Make an Agenda 

It’s easy to get off task when you don’t have a guide to keep you on track. Make an agenda before for your meeting, circulate it to your team members, and stick to it. That way, everyone knows what to expect.

When you make an agenda, think about what action items need to be accomplished. For example, if your meeting is supposed to discuss yearly marketing goals, make a list of them and cross off goals as they’re discussed. 

3. Start and End on Time 

Delaying a meeting’s start time can completely throw off your agenda. Begin on time to show your team that you respect their schedules. 

By starting on time, you communicate that everything will go according to plan. At the same time, you set an expectation of punctuality for attendees. 

Be sure, too, to end the meeting at a predetermined time. By limiting meeting length, you push yourself to be efficient. You might find that a meeting you thought would take an hour only required 30 minutes. 

4. Cap Attendance 

Meetings can be unproductive when people are invited who don’t need to be there. Address this issue by capping attendance based on the topic to be discussed.

If the meeting is about client service best practices, ask only your client services staff to attend. If you’re discussing engineering goals for a new software launch, invite just your engineers, project manager, and product owner.

5. Don’t Require Attendance 

One of the most annoying aspects of meetings is required attendance, especially for those who have deadlines coming up. It’s better to let people off the hook who can better serve the company elsewhere. 

An efficient way to indicate that you opt out is to set your calendar availability accordingly. You and others who opt out should ask for a recording of the meeting and, if appropriate, provide feedback via email.

To optimize your calendar availability:  

  • Make sure your availability matches that of your company.
  • Choose your own “no meetings” hours.
  • Decide who can view your availability.
  • Merge your personal and professional calendars.
  • Give people a heads up about exceptions.

6. Schedule Breaks 

If you plan on holding a meeting longer than an hour, schedule a break in between. A good break refreshes your mind and helps you restore your attention.

Grab some coffee or a snack. Meditate for a few minutes. Use the bathroom, or get a drink. You’ll come back refreshed and ready for the second half of the meeting. 

7. Make it Fun

Who says meetings have to be boring? You could host a roundtable brainstorm session to motivate your team of writers. A roundtable brainstorm is when everyone sits in a circle and spits out whatever comes to mind. This helps people get their creative juices flowing. 

Or, you could make every weekly meeting themed and encourage employees to dress up. Perhaps this Thursday’s meeting is a Hawaiian theme. Employees could wear luau gear and develop an agenda with luau vocabulary. Fun activities create engagement, which boosts focus and productivity. 

8. Participate 

You get more value from meetings when you have a voice. Make your voice heard during meetings, even when it feels difficult. 

Some ways to participate during meetings include taking notes, contributing to discussions, and picking your battles. It’s also important not to dominate the conversation. Soften your objections so they’re taken in stride. 

9. Follow Up Afterward

After meetings, it’s common for people to have additional concerns. Keep this in check by sending out a post-meeting follow-up message.

At the end of the meeting, take five minutes to recap the discussion in an email. If there’s a lot to discuss and just a few people who need to hear it, schedule a follow-up meeting. These are perfect for talking through project briefs or delegating tasks.

The truth is, a huge number of business meetings are wastes of time. Be thoughtful with who you invite, stick to the script, and don’t be late. Meetings can be productive, but only if you put in the effort.

5 Scheduling Software Tips to Get You Ahead in 2020

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Are you frustrated by all the time you spend scheduling appointments? Across a day’s worth of meetings, it may cost you an hour just to get everything on the calendar.

This is a particular challenge for companies that rely on appointments — hair salons, dental offices, massage therapists, and more. Staff and owners need a seamless, reliable way to manage the booking process. 

The right answer is one that’s easy for employees as well as customers to use. At a time when 75% of millennials prefer texting over talking on the phone, online booking tools are increasingly in demand.

The question is, are you getting the most out of yours? Here are five ways to do it:

1. Take advantage of point-of-sale integrations

Many scheduling software tools are designed to integrate with PayPal or other payment processors, but a lot of users do not know it. This feature can be handy for any small business that spends a lot of time chasing clients with invoices.

With this type of integration, you can request upfront payment for services, which saves your staff time and gives your revenue a boost. This can also be a strategy for delivering better customer experiences. 

By having embedded payment options directly in an appointment scheduling tool, you fundamentally make things easier. 

Consider this scenario: After a purchase is complete, a customer’s credit card is automatically charged the proper amount and a receipt emailed to them. It’s just like Uber — no fumbling around with cash or waiting for confirmation.

2. Communicate your policies clearly

Customers want to know what they’re signing up for before they do business. If you don’t list your prices and rules on your site or in your appointment confirmation email, you give people more reason to hesitate and ask questions. 

It’s particularly important to give upfront prices, including fees for late cancellations and no-shows. This reduces the need to explain anything and encourages customers to do their homework ahead of time.

Depending on your business, taking a small deposit may also make sense in the event a client cancels. If this is the case, you can get customers to enter a credit card number when they book and inform them that they’ll be charged in certain situations, such as canceling less than 24 hours in advance.

3. Use automation to reduce wait times

Scheduling software gives you a high degree of control over your calendar. It lets you do things like set “never ever” hours and manage how your availability is displayed. But perhaps most importantly, it allows you to automatically inform others of changes. 

Taking advantage of this creates time efficiencies for both you and your customers. If you’re charging customers for being late or not showing up, it’s not fair to expect them to endure excessive wait times or last-minute changes.

In the case that you’re running late, there are simple notification features that allow you to keep customers in the loop. That way, you can stop a missed meeting from snowballing into a sour customer experience. 

4. Sync it all

If you’re like me, you might be thinking, “I don’t want to use yet another app.” There are so many tools out there that learning to use a new one — even one designed to make life easier — is stressful. 

The good news is that scheduling software is simple, intuitive, and can be synced to most major desktop, mobile, and cloud-based calendaring solutions. Because it works with Outlook, Google, and iCal and more, changes made in the appointment tool will appear on your — and if you want, your customers’ — digital calendars.

Additional useful features include a client list and email integration. Together, these capabilities make it easier for business leaders to build and stay in touch with a large mailing list. The ability to capture emails is valuable, given how exceptionally well this channel gets consumers’ attention.

5. Make the most of the data at your disposal

Many scheduling tools feature reporting capabilities, helping you get insight into your company’s performance, behavior trends, and customer base. More leaders than you’d expect leave this data on the table.

Don’t ignore what you’re paying for. These reports can be exported in a variety of formats for further analysis in spreadsheets and other analytics tools. 

With a greater understanding of your customers, you can better tailor your content and the look of your calendar to those you serve. This can be as simple as adding a custom logo or color scheme, changing a style of speaking or tone, or adjusting the frequency of contact. But it can be as complex as cohort analyses and account-based marketing.

When you take the time to set up your scheduling software properly, you’ll elevate your customer experience and save yourself time. In doing so, you’ll make not just your life easier, but also that of your clients and team members. And surely that’s worth getting to know a new tool. 

7 Steps to Make Meetings More Productive

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Leader meeting with employees

Meetings are notorious wastes of time. Although half the battle is calling only meetings that make sense, the rest is a matter of making the meetings you do hold productive. 

According to a Clarizen/Harris Poll survey, the average U.S. worker spends 4.5 hours in general status meetings every week. Employees spend an extra 4.6 hours every week preparing for those meetings.

Ten hours per week per employee is a serious time investment. Add in all the other meetings your team holds, and you had better make sure they’re productive.

Making Meetings Productive

Making meetings productive is about planning ahead, being focused in the meeting itself, and closing with clear action steps. Here’s how to do it:

1. Finish important tasks ahead of time.

One of the reasons that meetings are burdensome is because people do not plan ahead. Being in the right headspace for meetings is key.

Start with schedule arrangement. Use time blocking to ensure you aren’t trying to get other things done during the meeting time. With time blocking, you set aside a specific chunk of time to finish a particular task. For example, you might dedicate an hour to doing nothing but writing a request for proposals. This means no checking your social media or picking up random phone calls. 

2. Make a priority list.

If you want to get the most out of a meeting you’re required to attend, make a priority list. What goals do you want to accomplish by attending this meeting? To get opinions on a new partnership? To determine a new sales strategy? Jot that down, and bring it to the meeting.

This is a great way to keep meetings focused. At the beginning of the meeting, tell the group what you want to get out of the meeting. Ask others to briefly share their own goals for the conversation as well. If it gets off track, look down at your list and steer things back.

3. Participate.

Plans are great, but if you want to accomplish your goals at a meeting, then you have to throw your hat in the ring. If you just sit there like a stone, don’t expect others to think about your priorities for you. 

If you don’t understand what deadline your boss is speaking about, then speak up. If you’re convinced that you’ll forget a newly scheduled appointment with your client, write it down in the notes. 

4. Limit meeting time and attendees.

Do you want to get the most out of your meetings? Limit the time and attendees to what is necessary. The reason some meetings go on for hours is because they involve people who shouldn’t be present.

If the meeting is focused around marketing department priorities, only have marketing folks there. If you’re talking about a patent, then the legal team should be involved. If you’re attending a status meeting for a small department, anything more than one hour is overkill. 

5. Stay focused.

Meetings may not take intense focus, but you should still be engaged in them. If you spend every second of the meeting checking your email, then you won’t come away with anything valuable.

How do you stay focused during meetings? By realizing that the more attention you give to them, the more meaningful they will be. 

Here are some tips to stay focused during meetings

  • Listen to music, meditate, or otherwise relax before the meeting.
  • Be positive.
  • Keep your priority list handy.
  • Prepare questions ahead of time.
  • Actively listen and ask questions.

6. Make suggestions.

If you’re spending time in a meeting, you should be contributing to it. If your coworker recommends that you should lead the next social media campaign, ask further questions. Why does she think you should lead the campaign? What are the goals for the campaign? 

Build on those ideas. Perhaps there’s a secondary goal you see as valuable. Maybe you could jointly lead the campaign. When in doubt, adopt improv comedy’s “yes, and…” technique.

7. End with action steps.

Many people complain that meetings accomplish nothing. Don’t just sit there and talk; make a plan. Here are some tips:

To end on an actionable note:

    • Suggest next steps: Who will do what, by when, how, and why? Every action step needs a clear reason. 
    • Get it in writing: Without a written record, the action steps may not be followed. 
  • Ask for final thoughts: Someone else may want to get a suggestion in before the meeting ends. 


  • Thank everyone for their time: If people feel appreciated, they’ll be that much more willing to work on the agreed action steps. 

It’s All About Goals

When you have a goal to work toward and stick to it, you won’t feel like you’re wasting your time. That, in a nutshell, is how you make more of your meetings.

Meetings may always be a drag, but they don’t have to be soul sucking. Some simple hacks like planning, participating, and focusing can go a long way. 

4 Types of Meetings Leaders Should Avoid

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Meetings are a non-negotiable part of business. There are work meetings, new hire meetings, team huddles, and client meetings, just to name a few.

Despite your best efforts to make every meeting effective and worth your time, there’s a good chance some of them aren’t necessary. It’s essential that you avoid wasting valuable meeting time. Avoid scheduling these four types of meetings.

  • Meetings without an agenda

If you find yourself scheduling meetings with no agenda, you should ask whether you truly need them. Never put a meeting on your calendar — or let someone else schedule one — without a clear list of talking points. 

Here are some tips for designing a meeting agenda:

  • Prepare your agenda early. 

The earlier you can prepare for a meeting, the better. Developing your agenda ahead of time will help you to improve the effectiveness of your meetings. Without an agenda, meetings can quickly devolve into off-topic wastes of time. 

  • Seek input from team members. 

It’s smart to send out an email before a meeting that outlines objectives or expectations. Not only does this make your meeting more organized, but according to Slack’s Farah Jaffer, it can help you gauge whether or not the meeting is really necessary.

  • List agenda topics as questions. 

Don’t be the type of leader who goes through a list of talking points without giving anyone else the opportunity to weigh in. When you phrase topics or meeting points as questions, you encourage collaboration and discussion amongst your team. 

A question-based agenda encourages a wider range of solutions. Just as importantly, it makes your team members feel like their voice matters. 

  • Status-update meetings

We’ve all attended a status-update meeting. Whether it’s about a change in management, important information about a project, or news about a client, these meetings all have one thing in common: They all involve information that could be conveyed by email. 

While the purpose of status update meetings is to share important information, they do it in the wrong forum. If a company-wide email isn’t appropriate, what about a phone call to the stakeholders who need to hear it?

If someone insists on a status-update meeting, prepare your employees with an email beforehand. Otherwise, the information may come as a total shock, which creates distractions and encourages gossip around the office. 

  • Brainstorming meetings

Brainstorming meetings are a staple at agencies and on creative teams. Mixing a group of unique individuals together may seem like the best way to land on an idea fast, but science says otherwise. A 1958 Yale study actually showed that people generate a higher number of original ideas when they don’t interact with others. 

Yes, brainstorming can make for a good team bonding activity. But if the goal is to generate creative ideas in the most efficient manner possible, ban the brainstorm. Ask people to share ideas via email or Slack instead, and appoint a decision maker to choose the best one. 

  • Client-issue meetings

When an account is “on fire,” so to speak, it might seem like you should hold a meeting. You find yourself suddenly emailing anyone who has touched the account saying, “Let’s meet and figure this out.” The next thing you know, a few hours have passed by and the day is over.

While catering to the needs of your clients is important, you have to realize that both your time and their time is valuable. Avoid long, unnecessary meetings by trying to get to the root of the issue. 

When a client asks for a meeting, respond by asking for more details regarding the purpose of the meeting. Either the account manager can solve it directly, or it’s a topic that’s bigger than a single client account — which may call for a conversation with company leaders. 

Maximizing your meeting time is all about knowing which ones are actually valuable and which aren’t. Review your calendar every Friday to determine how you spent your meeting time last week. Use those details to decide how you’ll spend your time in the coming week. Don’t let a week of wasted meetings turn into a month, year, or career’s worth of them. 

5 Tips for Setting Your Calendar Availability

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Double-booking yourself, setting up an appointment that interferes with your personal schedule, or simply feeling overworked: None of it feels good, and all of it can be solved with some simple changes to your calendar.

Your calendar’s availability settings can and should be customized. Remember, it’s your calendar: Whether you’re available, when you’re available, where you’re available, and with whom you’re available to meet are all up to you. 

To take control of your calendar, use these five tips to set your calendar availability:

  • Align your availability with the company’s.

First and foremost, wrap your professional availability around your company’s business hours. Doing so gives you a reason to say “no” to meetings outside of a specific time range, which is important for your work-life balance. 

It may be hard at first, but you have to get used to saying “no” to pointless or ill-timed meetings. Either offer a time that works better for you, or propose an alternative communication solution, such as email.

Getting tough with people about your availability is key for productivity. Define your hours of operation, and don’t accept meetings outside of that time frame. 

  • Decide on “never ever” hours.

Just because your company is open does not mean you need to be open for meetings during that time. Decide as a company on an online scheduling tool that lets everyone see who’s available and who isn’t at a given time. 

Perhaps you know that you do your best work first thing in the mornings. Go ahead and block off the hours before 10 a.m. for deep work. Many calendar tools let you select “Apply to all weekdays.” This setting is also useful for scheduling recurring meetings, such as a weekly client touch-base.

  • Control how availability is displayed.

Clients do not need to see every appointment on your calendar. At best, they’ll be confused by the mess of meetings that are not relevant to them; at worst, they might see sensitive or private information.

Until you’ve checked a setting to the contrary, assume that everything you put on your calendar is public. Once you’ve found that setting, operate on a “need to know” basis. If a client questions why they can’t see all of your appointments, be respectful but firm.

To help clients know what to expect, share meeting details such as:

  • When you’ll be available to meet
  • What to expect during meetings
  • What number to call or website to visit to join the virtual meeting room
  • Any software the client needs to install for the meeting
  • Who else might need to be in the meetings

Setting general meeting expectations is important, but it is not a substitute for confirming all appointments via email. If you do not bother to communicate with a client between the time a meeting is scheduled until the time it actually occurs, you’ll have more no-shows than you’d like.

  • Sync your personal and professional calendars.

Between your professional and personal lives, it can be hard to keep up with all of your appointments. Avoid conflicts by syncing your calendars. Looking back and forth between separate ones can open the door to mistakes, not to mention the productivity lost in the process. 

Many tools, including Calendar and Google Calendar, put you in the driver’s seat on which meeting details are displayed. Those who view your work calendar can only see your work events, not the private information associated with your personal ones. The same is true of your personal connections who can see a synced version of your work calendar. 

  • Give people a heads up about exceptions. 

There will be normal work days when you’re out of the office for PTO, a conference, or a client visit. On the flip side, there may be days off when you need to work a few hours. 

Try not to catch people off guard. At least 48 hours in advance (and preferably a week), send a notification via email that you will or won’t be available outside of your normal schedule. Be sure to block off (or open up) the time on your calendar. And if you’ll be completely offline, remember to set an out-of-office responder. 

When you take the time to properly set up your calendar availability, you’ll raise the ceiling on how much you can achieve in a day. In doing so, you’ll make not just your life easier, but also that of your clients and team members. Who knew taking charge of your calendar availability could make such a difference?

6 Meetings That Boost Productivity on Remote Teams

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Every company has a unique mix of purpose, goals, and culture. As a result, they also have unique workflows.

Although some teams are still completely in-office operations, about 70% of people globally work remotely at least once a week. To keep communication lines strong and productivity high, remote teams have to be deliberate about when and why they meet. 

Which types of meetings actually matter for remote teams, and how should they be conducted? Here’s our take:

1. Daily or weekly check-ins

In fast-paced, deadline-driven work environments, it’s crucial to keep remote employees on the same page as on-site staff. Starting each day with a 15-minute stand-up meeting ensures that each team member gets a chance to discuss their workload and ask for any support they might need. 

If a daily meeting sounds like overkill for your remote team, consider a weekly one instead. Keep it to 30 minutes or less, if at all possible. This is enough time for a round-up of goals, accomplishments, and concerns — but not enough for the meeting to devolve into pointless conversation. These meetings promote time-blocking while reducing the need for back-and-forth email chains. 

2. Quick follow-ups

Does a project brief, report, or email need more clarification? Is there something you need to chat through before you can take the next step?

Rather than adding to the flurry of digital messages, hop on a call. A five- to ten-minute conversation is all it takes, in most cases, to get clarity.

This is especially important for highly collaborative teams. A quick follow-up meeting can prevent multiple members of a team from heading down the wrong path. 

3. Monthly status updates

Sometimes, a particularly important project deserves its own series of meetings. To keep long-term initiatives on track, consider scheduling monthly or quarterly meetings to touch base. 

What sorts of projects do these meetings make sense for? Marketing campaigns, sales strategies, and product development are common ones. Recruitment and cultural curation initiatives also deserve periodic updates.

Because these meetings happen less frequently, take steps to prevent poor time management. Prepare an agenda with clear action items beforehand. Know who plans to present, and ask them to send summaries of those presentations to the team afterward. Be sure to make time for participants’ questions or concerns. 

4. Brainstorms

The hardest part of any project is starting it. Keep your remote team’s productivity high with opportunities to brainstorm around roadblocks. Virtual brainstorm sessions should last anywhere from fifteen to thirty minutes, allowing team members to generate and share project-related ideas freely. 

In these meetings, visual aids are great ways to jog ideas. Consider conducting your virtual brainstorms via videoconference in a room with a whiteboard. At the very least, use screen-sharing so everyone can see the notes and ideas generated so far. 

5. Leadership Q&As

Remote team members get less (and in some cases, no) face time with managers and executives. A great way to maintain communication between them is with Q&A sessions. These types of meetings are best used to discuss team-wide concerns and ongoing cultural issues. Just be sure to schedule them well in advance so workers can prepare questions and leaders can think through their talking points. 

If your company works with subject matter experts, Q&A sessions can also be used to share specialists’ advice with the rest of the team. Employees may not need to understand every detail, but they should be able to get their questions answered. 

6. Cross-team collaborations 

When two or more teams are working on the same project, they need to set common goals and track progress together. Get both groups together to talk through challenges and workflows.

Perhaps your web and product teams are working on an e-commerce launch. Key players from both teams should share their strategies and discuss how the other can help. On-site product details should match the product’s actual functionality.

Schedule these conversations for 15, 30, or 45 minutes. Anything longer should be split into multiple meetings, and anything shorter should be treated as a check-in meeting. Timed right, collaborative meetings boost quality of work and efficiency. 

Remote workers may be physically separated, but that shouldn’t get in the way of their productivity. Scheduling meetings strategically is the best way to keep everyone working well together. And that sort of collaboration is how companies stay ahead of the curve. 

6 Types of Meetings Entrepreneurs Should Have on Their Calendar Every Week

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You’ve got your business up and running. You’ve got a team nailed down. You have client work on the calendar. So what’s next?

That would be the meeting. 

Meeting should be used strategically, given how much team time they take. To maximize team productivity and communication, these six meetings are worth holding weekly:

1. The Brainstorm

If you’ve reflected on some current business practices and found that you’re in the market for something new, the next step is to develop some ideas. Don’t bother trying to scrape together some ideas over email; it’s best to do the work in person. 

To make brainstorms worth your while: 

  • Encourage your team to speak their minds. You can narrow down ideas later, but it’s difficult to get participation if every idea is shot down right away. 
  • The wilder the idea, the better. A wild idea can be made more realistic. Ideas that start small, though, tend to be harder to improve. Encouraging wildness can also keep the creative juices flowing during the meeting. 
  • Facilitate for efficiency. The point of brainstorming is to get as many ideas on the page as possible. However, you have to maintain some kind of structure: Have one conversation at a time, and write things down in a centralized place, such as a whiteboard. 

Having weekly brainstorming sessions will keep you and your team on your toes. Even if the ideas don’t become a reality right away, you’ll have an arsenal of things to choose from down the road. You can also use this time to workshop old ideas if you don’t need to come up with new ones. 

2. The Task Setter

The task-setting meeting is the time to put ideas into action. Think of it as the brainstorm’s older, more mature brother. 

Learning how to prioritize tasks is important in making the most of everyone’s time. The last thing you want is to focus on tasks that don’t help you reach your goals. One approach to task management that works well for task setting is the 4Ds technique:

  • Delete: Drop anything that isn’t time-sensitive or crucial to progress. 
  • Delegate: If you are not in the best position to take on a task, delegate it. Considering everyone’s strengths and weaknesses is important here. Explain the reasons for your choices, tell delegatees what they’ll be doing, and set deadlines appropriately. 
  • Defer: Some tasks can be pushed back if they aren’t as urgent as others. 
  • Do: If a task can be done quickly or needs to be finished soon, just get it done. 

3. The Status Update 

The status-update meeting is critical in determining whether the team’s actions are aligned with an overall goal. Not every update deserves its own meeting, but don’t be afraid to get everyone together once a week for a chat with the project manager. 

In this meeting, you can determine which team members are on top of things and which ones might be struggling. Luckily there are plenty of solutions if the issue is, for example, poor time management

How can you identify poor time management skills? Common signs include poor quality of work, missed deadlines, and unhealthy habits — such as getting too little sleep.

4. The Problem Solver 

You and your team should have talked about any challenges in the status update meeting. If there’s a big-picture on you couldn’t solve in that conversation, the problem-solving meeting can help you find a solution.

Whatever the problem, use this four-step framework to get to the bottom of it:

  1. Gather a list of potential causes of the challenges.
  2. Brainstorm some helpful resources. 
  3. Make a list of potential solutions or approaches. 
  4. Decide on recommendations for action by debating solutions and agreeing on one. 

5. The Sales Check-in 

Because the green keeps the business going, it’s important to give extra attention to sales. But these meetings, like any other, can lose you money and productivity if not done correctly.

Sales check-ins should be grounded in hard evidence. Be sure you bring at least one of three things — and ideally all three — to every sales check-in: data, feedback, or action. 

One topic to chat through at these meetings? How salespeople are following up with clients after a sale. Follow-ups can engage customers, leading to higher lifetime value. This can be as simple as inviting customers to webinars or more hands-on, such as volunteering with customers on a cause they support.

6. The Team Builder 

Team building is one of the most beneficial things you can encourage as a leader. It’s as critical, if not more, than talking through the numbers. 

When team members get to know each other more deeply, they get a better sense of one another’s strengths, weaknesses, fears, and capabilities. They enjoy working together more, improving efficiency while minimizing employee turnover. 

Team-building activities can range from chili cook-offs to icebreaker games. It’s up to you to decide what your team will enjoy.

Meetings may not always be fun, but they should always be valuable. These six meetings make sense to hold at least once a week. Can you think of any others?

How to Handle a Meeting-Happy Client

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What to Do if Appointments Keep Running Long

Saying “no” is tough for everyone, including entrepreneurs. You want to do right by your clients, but you can’t spend your whole day meeting with them.

Every moment you spend in a meeting is one you can’t spend working on your business. Don’t let meeting-happy clients pull you away from your other priorities.

Start by keeping a time log so you know exactly how you’re spending your time. If one or two accounts are responsible for a disproportionate amount of your meeting time:

1. Get to the root of the issue. 

Clients know their time is limited, too. If they keep asking to meet with you, look for common themes. Show that you’re working to solve their needs, and you should see those requests fall off.

Try this: When the client reaches out, respond by asking for more details about the reason for the meeting. In many cases, a meeting simply isn’t necessary. If it’s something that you can address yourself, do it. Report back, and ask if the client still wants to meet.

2. Delegate. 

If your client constantly asks to meet — especially if it’s for a legitimate reason — one solution might be to ask a team member to take the meetings. That way, the client feels supported, and your schedule stays open.

Be sure, though, that the client respects your employee’s time. Ask them to schedule meetings at least 48 hours in advance, and ensure meetings last no longer than an hour. 

3. Be direct and quick.

What if, despite you solving the client’s issue, he or she still wants to meet? Say no, but don’t beat around the bush.

Being decisive and clear benefits everyone. Think of it like tearing off a Band-Aid: It’s better to get through the pain quickly than let it fester. In fact, a great client will appreciate your straightforward, timely response.

4. Provide additional resources.

Just because you say “no” to a meeting doesn’t mean you can’t be a good partner. If you can’t solve the client’s issue yourself, share content about it or make a referral to someone who can.

If multiple clients have come to you about this issue, consider developing a whitepaper or similar asset around it. A robust content strategy can be a great way to bring in new business. 

5. Template your responses. 

No matter how well you handle meeting-happy clients, there will always be more. Prepare yourself for the next one by setting up templates. Make each response is decisive and inoffensive.

Start with two: For those that you see no reason to meet with, “My calendar is booked for the foreseeable future” is a good response. For the rest, say something like, “I would love to discuss this with you further, but let’s wait for our next scheduled meeting.”

Practice makes perfect: The only way you’re going to get better at saying “no” to your clients is by doing it over and over again. Own your schedule, and don’t be ashamed of it. 

When Are Hour-Long Meetings Worth it?

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How to Make Your Company Vision Resonate With Employees

More than 10 million meetings are held every day in the U.S. Well spent or not, those interactions add up to billions of dollars in employee time.

Given how expensive meetings are, it’s incumbent on businesses to use them sparingly. If something can be accomplished via email or a quick chat, it should be. But while that should be the rule, there are some important exceptions.

When Long Meetings Make Sense

When are lengthy meetings appropriate? At least four common business situations call for them:

1. Executive-level negotiations

When you’re trying to forge a partnership or sway an investor, an hour-long meeting might make sense. High-stakes decisions don’t lend themselves well to snappy phone calls or quick chats at Starbucks.

Start by developing an agenda. Estimate the amount of time you’ll need for each step; before creating the calendar invite, add it up to determine a meeting length.

If you suspect you’ll need more than an hour, consider breaking the meeting up into two or more sessions. Executives and investors are busy people, and they simply may not have a calendar slot large enough to accomodate a multi-hour meeting. 

2. Performance reviews

Whether you’re digging into marketing data, financial projections, or employee conduct, performance-analysis meetings take time. Because these reviews do not happen every day (or even every week), spending more time on them isn’t such a bad idea. 

The greater measure of time between reviews, the lengthier a meeting can — and is expected to — be. A quarterly review may take an hour and a half; an annual, whole-company performance analysis might be worth spending an entire day off site for a retreat. 

3. Long-term planning

Certain long-term topics are worth taking a full hour to discuss. Take hiring: Filling an open role costs more than $4,000, on average. In terms of lost productivity and the company’s reputation, making a mishire costs even more.

Another is product development. New products costs millions of dollars and years to develop, and just 1 in 20 of them succeed in the market. At that level of investment, an extended discussion is warranted: What’s the product’s audience? What need does it fulfill? How does it do so better than similar products on the market?

4. Feedback on major projects

Project feedback is a mixed bag: A blog post doesn’t require a meeting to review, much less an hour-long one; a high-fidelity prototype that cost $30,000 to produce, however, probably does. 

How can you determine where that line is? Ask yourself two questions: How important is the project to the business, and what’s the risk to the company if it does not go well? If in doubt, ask a colleague whether they think it’s worth getting the whole team together to discuss.

Conducted properly, these types of meetings deliver more value to the business than they cost in employee time. But many other common reasons for meetings do not meet that bar.

When to Keep Meetings Short (or Cancel Them Altogether)

Fortunately, knowing which meetings can be cancelled or kept short is relatively simple. Don’t even dream of scheduling a full hour to discuss:

  • Weekly progress updates, especially with individuals or small teams: If the update can be summed up in an email, it should be. If you need to know how an individual is progressing on a project, send them a Slack or set up a quick call. 
  • Revenue and expense breakdowns for the wider team: Understandably, you want your workers to know how the company is faring. But figures can be shared via email; if employees have questions, they’ll stop by to ask.
  • Brainstorms for marketing assets, such as blogs or email campaigns: Competent team members can come up with topic ideas on their own. If a large number of topics are needed at once, ask everyone to bring a few ideas to the table, using the meeting time to pare them down to the strongest ones. 
  • Personal schedule updates, such as vacations or appointments: Use an online calendar to communicate out-of-office events. Send an email to explain where everything stands before leaving the office. Again, expect colleagues to bring any questions they may have to you directly. 

There’s nothing wrong with getting multiple perspectives on an issue. The fact is, though, few business situations require hour-long, team-wide deliberations.

Treat team members’ time with respect, and they’ll treat your company’s time the same way. That’s one topic everyone can agree on, no meeting required. 

How to Have More Productive Brainstorming Sessions

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The combined brainpower and creativity of your employees is a powerful thing. When you focus that many people on a tough problem, you’re able to find solutions that no one person could spot.

Why do some brainstorming sessions seem to produce better results than others? Because brainstorming is about more than just mentioning whatever comes to your mind. Here’s how to make yours more productive:

1. Make brainstorming sessions a staple.

Imagine walking into your conference room one morning, pointing to people at random, and telling them they’re going to brainstorm: They’d feel clueless about what they should be contributing or what you might want to hear.

When you make brainstorming sessions a way of life at your office, you create a culture where employees are always prepared to think about new ideas. People who expect to be asked for ideas on a regular basis not only come up with better ones, but they feel greater buy-in when those ideas are implemented. 

Set a regular time, and start each session with a clear team mission. Once a week, perhaps right after your all-staff meeting, put everyone’s brains together and see what problems you can solve.

2. Encourage pre-brainstorm solo ideation.

Why bother sending out an agenda before the brainstorm? Introverts, in particular, need time by themselves to think clearly, but everyone can benefit from pre-ideation.

Ask each member of the brainstorming session to come prepared with a few ideas ahead of time. Doing so will make members more confident in their own ideas, and it will allow others to build on those ideas. Depending on the problem at hand, three to five starter ideas per person should be plenty plenty.

3. Get the time and place right.

How creative do you feel at 4 p.m. on a Friday afternoon? What about first thing on a Monday?

Take advantage of the fact that most people do their best creative work in the mornings. Schedule your meetings early in the day, but give people time to get oriented so their brains aren’t on their inboxes.

Consider a change of scenery as well. If it’s a nice day, take your team outside. If not, how about a trip to a local coffee shop instead? New environments encourage new ideas. 

4. Work in small, strategic groups.

One of the most common mistakes in brainstorming exercises is allowing too many people into each session. Three to seven participants is the perfect number of people to get ideas flowing without having too many voices talking over each other. Adding more members tends to result in unproductive side-conversations.

Choose people who have different points of view on the subject at hand. Think about personality, too, taking care not to overwhelm the group with too many talkers. Especially when the topic has to do with business strategy, include members from multiple departments.

5. Provide structure and limitations.

Think about how your son or daughter responds to “How was your day today?” compared to “What did you eat for lunch?” The first question is so broad and vague that it often yields the famous one-word response, “Fine.”

Adults and children alike struggle to respond to a prompt that is too open-ended. Limiting the question a bit can actually prompt better, more specific answers. 

Help your team out by providing boundaries, such as a budget or a specific audience. Giving your brainstorming sessions a few definitive guidelines will allow your team to think creatively within those set bounds and come up with effective solutions.

6. Suspend judgment.

For a brainstorming session to be productive, everyone attending must feel free to mention all their ideas — particularly the crazy-sounding ones. An idea that initially seems off-the-wall may turn out to be the perfect solution.

Create an atmosphere where your employees are not afraid of “sounding dumb” by focusing on quantity of ideas over quality. Setting a timer and asking the team to spitball as many ideas as possible in five minutes is a great way to make everyone feel comfortable around each other.

Once everyone’s ideas are up on the whiteboard is the time to pare them down. Until then, there truly are no wrong answers. 

There’s a solution out there to every business problem. Put enough brains together — and get the conditions for the conversation right — and you’re sure to find it. 

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