Let’s get this on the table: meetings are necessary. I meet with clients. I meet with employees. I meet with non-profits and other organizations to learn more about what they do. Meetings allow us to learn more about people and the companies with whom we interact. With this opportunity for success, why do people hate meetings so much?

My 7-year old daughter told me she likes me having meetings because meetings lead to money. Although this is true most of the time, it is not always the case. How do we know if we are having a successful meeting? Here are some tips:

  1. Taking Notes – I had an unsuccessful meeting once with a lawyer. Five minutes into the meeting he closed his laptop. I immediately took that as an indication the meeting was over (and it was). Clearly he was done listening and no longer needed to remember anything. In all of the productive meetings I’ve had, people are taking notes (me and the other party). Taking notes shows people the information is important and you want to remember it.
  2. Asking Questions – Think of a meeting like a date. If the person at the other end of the table is not asking questions, they are probably not that interested. Also, pay attention to the types of questions being asked. Your questions should not come rapid fire. Have a general direction in mind and then improvise of the fly. Each question should feed off the content of previous questions.
  3. Follow Up Steps –  At the conclusion on a successful meeting, I confirm some next steps: a) I will forward them some information; b) they will forward me some information or c) we will talk again. When I worked for Fortune 100 companies, we never finished a meeting without knowing the next step. Confirm dates and events before people get lost in the hectic pace of life back at their desk.
  4. Business and Personal – I have had meetings that were a lot of fun, and I have had meetings that were all business. Mix it up! Make sure you have the right combination of business and personal. Talk about families, hobbies and interests at first. However, don’t forget why you are there. After the pleasantries, transition into business. Everyone will appreciate the fact you didn’t waste their time.
  5. Call Back – The clearest example of a good date / meeting: the person calls / emails you back. I have had my share of meetings where I left feeling great: e.g. – “Score! They said I have a great idea and they want to schedule 2 – 3 presentations with their top clients.” After three weeks and three emails, I still haven’t heard anything from them. The true measure of success is you are doing business with the person.

I used to walk out of every meeting bragging about how good it was and how I knew I landed the deal. Six weeks later I’d have no call back, no contract and no money in the bank. Everyone has the occasional bad meeting. Do what you can to make those few and far between.

Scientifically Speaking, of course.