How to Make Meetings Fail

Why do so many meetings fail? The intention was never to bore people to tears, or to demoralize a team, or to waste time and money.  But it happens, and quite often.

Recently I read a blog post from Seth Godin – I really like the message and want to share it with you:

“Let’s go around the room”
If you say that in a meeting, you’ve failed. You’ve abdicated responsibility and just multiplied the time wasted by the number of people in the room.

When we go around the room, everyone in the room spends the entire time before their turn thinking about what to say, and working to say something fairly unmemorable. And of course, this endless litany of ‘saying’ leads to little in the way of listening or response or interaction or action of any kind.

The worst example I ever saw of this was when Barry Diller did it in a meeting with 220 attendees. More than two hours later, everyone in the room was bleeding from their ears in boredom.

Leaders of meetings can do better. Call on people. Shape the conversation. Do your homework in advance and figure out who has something to say, and work hard to create interactions. Either that or just send a memo and cancel the whole thing. It’s easier and probably more effective.

You’ve been in those “Let’s go around the room” meetings, so have I.  Creating innovative, meaningful meetings isn’t easy. But then neither is creating a successful practice or business. Before you schedule a meeting, whether with 5 people or 500, invest in planning the agenda, developing the subject matter and building an environment that is will . You will get the ROI you want – your team will leave energized and engaged.

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.




Networking: Even Accountants Can Mingle

Now that our eyes are adjusting to the sunlight rather than the glow of florescent light we’ve been subjected to since early January, it’s time to get out there and start networking.

That’s right – networking!

If the thought of “networking” makes you sweat, it’s time to re-think what networking really is. It’s really pretty simple. Anytime you’re at an event or even a meeting where you don’t know someone, you have the opportunity to network. It’s about introducing yourself and getting to know someone else. At any business function, introduce yourself to somebody you don’t know. At a CPE event, introduce yourself to someone you don’t know. Attending a conference? Introduce yourself to someone you don’t know. (Noticing a theme here?)

Today I want to give you four networking tips that you can apply immediately.

  1. The Mindset. This involves having the right attitude, believing in yourself, having a plan, and the simplest thing of all – remembering to smile.  By taking just a little time to get in the right mindset, you’ll have a lot more confidence walking into that event. And, simply smiling can make anyone more approachable! As Victor Borge once said, “A smile is the shortest distance between two people.” And what did I mean by “having a plan?” Any gathering of individuals – no matter how large or small – I view as an opportunity to meet someone and I set a goal of trying to obtain at least 5 new  business cards. Make a plan or set a goal like that for yourself.
  2. The Preparation. As accountants, some of us tend to be more introverted, so in order to make meaningful connections, preparation is key. Preparation means doing your homework – listen, read, watch. What’s happening in the news? What’s going on in your community? What’s going on in the profession? After you have answered these questions, formulate five or six questions that you can use to start a conversation. Let’s say I’m in Cincinnati … I’d probably start off the conversation by asking someone if they’re a Reds fan and if so, what do they think of their prospects this year to win the division. An easy opener that’s sure to get the conversation going.
  3. The Implementation. Don’t be shy. Walk up, stick your hand out and introduce yourself. “Hi my name is…..” (I have yet to do this and have someone shriek and run away from me.) And this is important – engage them by being curious about them. Ask questions to get them talking about themselves. This is a great way to break the ice and create rapport with someone. Some conversations will be great and some may be non-starters for whatever reason, but the more people you talk to, the more likely you are to make some really meaningful connections. The key to effective implementation is to be a good listener with both your eyes and ears. I’ve actually walked away from people who were talking to me but weren’t listening to me or they were looking around the room to find others. To me, that just shows a complete lack of any genuine or sincere interest. So, if you’re not interested in continuing a conversation with someone, politely excuse yourself and move on.
  4. The follow-up. One of the most critical steps in just about anything we do – including networking – is following up.  I like to send a handwritten “nice meeting you” card within a couple of weeks of meeting someone. I also like to forward interesting article links or something I’ve learned more about regarding their interests or their business. Sometimes I’ll pick up the phone call the person to see if we can schedule time for coffee or lunch just so we can get to know each other better.

I said I had four tips, but here’s a bonus one for you. I like to call my approach to networking – “the Godfather approach.” I always end a conversation by saying, “please feel free to contact me at any time if I can do anything for you.” Because as in the movie the Godfather, if I do this for you, someday I will come to you and ask you for a favor.”

Now get out there and start networking!