Today’s Kallum with a K Blog: why do most meetings usually last an hour?
When did this become a rule?!
In reality, “let’s have a catch up”, if not managed properly, can be code for: “let’s grab a coffee, speak aimlessly for an hour-and-a-half, and then go back to work, without agreeing any outcomes or actions!”.
I’m asked for a catch-up or meeting at least once a day, and most of the time I say no. I’m not rude or arrogant, however, I am totally focused on what I need to do to achieve my goals.
That’s not to say I ignore everyone and don’t want to help people. However, there are only so many hours in the day. And if you say yes to something, you are also saying no to lots of other things. The opposite is also true!
Here are 3 tips to have more meaningful meetings (and how to avoid pointless ones!)
1. Ask screening questions before you arrange a meeting.
It’s as simple as asking someone why they want to meet with you. This sounds obvious, however, it’s not done in practice.
I used to be so guilty of this. I would meet anyone that asked to see me without questioning them. I never asked, “why do you want to meet me”, because I’m a nice guy and I want to help people…
However, you don’t grow in business without learning to say “no” to certain things.
And pointless meetings are very high on this list!
You should establish the other person's motivations before wasting time meeting them. For example, you may discover that: you simply can’t help them, there is no fit between you, i.e., they don’t move you towards achieving your goals, or you don’t want to be pitched on a product you’re not interested in!
My personal favourite: before you invest time meeting a potential client in person, please ensure you establish they have a genuine need for your product - which I covered in this blog - that they have sufficient budget to pay for your offerings, and the authority to make that purchasing decision.
2. Do you actually need to meet in person?
Or can your meeting take place via Skype or on the phone?
Let’s face it, people tend to just meet in person for an hour out of some kind of misguided default position. Something we never challenge!
Meetings cost a lot of time and money, especially indirectly or in ways that are not immediately obvious.
There is the time involved in travelling to and from the meeting point. This is usually dead time unless you, for example: schedule some calls during this, are speaking to people in the car with you, or are listening to a valuable podcast.
If you take a 2 members of staff with you to a one-hour meeting, then that’s really costing you 3 hours for the meeting itself! Remember, this does not including transport time and the opportunity cost of you and your team not working on specific activities to drive the business forward.
What else could you be doing with this time…?
Considering all of this, and having asked some questions pre-meeting, to establish their motivations, do you really need to meet in person? Can this meeting take place over the phone or via Skype?
A final thought on this: a 1-hour in person meeting, could probably be converted to a product 15-minute phone call. We tend to go off-track more in face-to-face meetings, and whilst we also can do this on this phone, it is less likely, especially if you follow the next tip.
3. Set a time-limit for your meeting...and stick to it!
Depending on what the meeting is about, you may need to set a limit for 90 mins - equally, a focused 10-minute discussion on the phone can be sufficient.
By setting a time-limit in advance, and communicating this with the other party, you are managing their expectations. You're also setting the tone that your time is precious - which it really is!
And then by keeping an eye on the time throughout the meeting, and course-correcting when your discussion strays away from the main objective, you can stick to the allocated time.
This can be challenging to do, especially for someone like me who is naturally very talkative (my mum would probably say "I blether shite!"). I love finding out about people and am genuinely interested in getting to know them, however, save that for another time or organise a social meet-up with them, not a business one.
Bonus (because I’m all about delivering you more value!): have a set agenda for the meeting and at the end, assign actions to specific people.
Again, this sounds simple and easy-to-do, however, in my experience, this is not done. I’ve lost track of the number of times people have started meetings with: “why are we here again?”, “I just wanted to chat with you” or “I just wanted to touch base” (spew!).
These sort of meetings obviously got through my screening test (shame on me!). However, I always cut these sort of meetings sort and even, on a handful of occasions, have walked out of them - politely, of course! I’m ok with appearing rude, because I have stuff to do!
At the end of meetings, ensure all parties know what they have to do next - if there are agreed actions, ensure they are assigned to a specific person. That gets around the whole nonsense of, “Oh, I thought you were going to do that!”.
And that my friend, is how to have meaningful meetings that deliver results, whilst avoiding pointless ones, and escaping those that you just really shouldn’t be in!
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, please leave them in the comments below. What’s your strategy for getting the most out of meetings? What’s the best meeting you’ve ever had? And what’s the worst one?
Kallum with a K