Faster Meetings Mean Better Meetings

37072Who among us loves long, drawn-out meetings? No one. Yet somehow the people managing meetings seem to think that longer must mean more productive. I am on the side of less is more.  Here are my tips on how to make meetings shorter and get better results, and they center around the planning process.

Have a specific agenda that includes key discussion points.

•  Send out the agenda in advance so attendees know what to expect.

• Start on time, end on time. It’s really just another discipline.

• Anything off topic is discussed later.

• Anything that is does not involve all meeting attendees is discussed later.

• If appropriate, ask subject experts to provide necessary information to the group.

• Set a timeframe for each discussion point.

• Allow a specific time for Q&A. Any topics that cannot be answered are passed on to whoever can give the answer.

This article offers 6 Ways to Make Meetings Go Faster. Personnally, I like the last way: don’t schedule a meeting at all!  Time is so valuable that without a specific purpose, meetings can be more habit than productive.




Worth A Second Look

Ringing-doorbellThere are so many good books out there that I haven’t read yet that it’s a difficult decision for me to re-read a book. The Ten Faces of Innovation by Tom Kelley is definitely worth a first and even a second read!  Kelley runs IDEO, a design and innovation consulting firm that does remarkable work. One chapter in the book resonated with me: “The Doorbell Effect” talks about waiting…the pain, disappointment and confusion created when a service business forces customers to wait.

Kelley’s analogy is when you walk up to a door and ring the bell you have no idea what is happening on the other side.  Are they home? Are they hiding from you? You just wait until someone else makes a move. How does that apply to your business?

To me, communication – both internal and external – is the virtual Doorbell that either allows a firm to move forward or holds them back. Within your company, poor communication can create confusion, poor business practices and high staff turnover. Unless the firm’s leadership takes control of communication, the staff works according to their own priorities, manages clients as they choose and fails to support the mission of the firm.

Take that further and develop a standard for communicating with clients. How your staff treats clients is part of your company’s culture. Let me tell you a story that makes my point.

Recently a friend told me about her accountant, rather her former accountant. They didn’t return calls on a timely basis, ever. She asked for their thoughts on her business accounting processes, but didn’t get a response. She asked again, leaving a very specific message…nothing. She “rang the doorbell” four times, and nothing. So she took her business elsewhere.  She fired her old accounting firm by email (because they didn’t return her calls), telling them that they clearly didn’t value her business or her time.  Guess what. They never reached out see if they could save the relationship.

Eliminate “The Doorbell Effect” by creating best practices focused on client communication. Keep clients aware of the process for their project upfront. Will it take days, weeks, months…how many? How frequently will  you update them on progress?  Is it okay for them to call you with questions?  Never leave clients in the dark.  Set up a standard, develop the process and hold everyone in the firm to it.

Firms that commit to excellent communication are more likely to retain clients and improve referrals. It takes effort and a commitment to communicating with staff and clients

Short, Sweet & To the Point

images 4.16.36 PMHow does your firm handle internal communication? If you currently use or are thinking of using conference calls, maybe it’s time to reconsider.

One idea out there is to take a Twitter-like approach to calls and meetings – keep it short, to the point and relevent. 140 characters may not work but these ideas might help:

  • Always have an agenda and keep to it
  • Set ground rules for asking questions, changing topics, adding comments
  • Ask participants to prepare in advance on specific topics
  • Stay on task and on time – most meetings meet their expiration at 1 hour

Maybe the best advise is to reconsider having that meeting or conference call. If the meeting doesn’t solve a problem or improve a situation, why have it at all?

There’s a good article on this topic, “Why Conference Calls Should be More Like Twitter” from the Incidental Economist. Maybe short and sweet could work for you. Take a quick read and see if it doesn’t influence how you manage conference calls and group communication.

Embrace Your Inner Superhero!

It’s true…every CPA has Superhero potential. One of my most popular keynotes and presentation, Embrace Your Inner Superhero, presents helps break down barriers and provides tips and tools for pushing yourself to a placed that allows you to perform great feats!

Here’s a portion of my presentation…Enjoy!