Leading Efficient Client Meetings
Improperly run, the meeting could be a miserable mishmash of confused topics and angry clients. As a consultant you must absolutely master the art of leading a meeting. Consider the following guidelines to make your meetings truly efficient.
1 - Distribute an agenda before the meeting
The agenda is a very useful tool that helps attendees understand the intended flow of conversation. Just making one can be very useful if you don’t yet have an organized sense of what issues need to be discussed. Agendas with helpful notes that point attendees toward necessary information are even better. The most productive meetings will have naturally flowing conversations among mutually interested parties that are each informed about the topics at hand. Don’t neglect having someone taking clear and concise minutes calling for next steps and the decisions taken.
2 - Encourage effective participation
Meetings are only helpful if they increase or spread the collective knowledge of the people in attendance. Participation is crucial to this primary goal. If a few people monopolize the conversation or don’t ask the right questions it may become very difficult for anyone to learn anything. If there is a sense that people are not managing their own speaking time, politely urge them to give others a chance to contribute. Insist on equitable, reasonable standards and then enforce them. People will respect your attention to the ultimate goal of the meeting and will participate more robustly and effectively.
3 - Transform Conflicts into Idea Creation
While it may seem better for people to agree, healthy conflict can help the group achieve greater understanding of an issue and coalesce support around a common goal. Make sure that any conflict or disagreement between attendees does not escalate beyond a polite exchange. Try to keep the conversation on track basing it on facts. Have a paper board and list the pros and cons, that way elements appear bias free. If someone is being overly difficult then make sure you keep control of your meeting by redirecting their aggression elsewhere. Skew the conversation towards finding a solution rather than the divergence itself. Speak with them individually if you must take a recess but otherwise encourage a collegial environment. Promote open exchange and when it appears most people seem to be in agreement, point out consensus.
4 - Engage the attendees
One of the most common pitfalls for meeting organizers is the splintering of the discussion into multiple sub-groups. Since the goal of the meeting is to share information across each of the sub-groups, this digression is fundamentally opposed to the mission of the group as a whole. Take breaks if necessary, but try to keep people engaged by maintaining eye contact, using subtle verbal cues, or pulling them aside. Better yet, try to motivate people to participate in the discussion by giving them a vested stake in the outcome of the meeting. If someone makes a good point, be sure to bring it up the next chance you get to their superior and identify them by name. Positive reinforcement will do wonders to making your meetings more effective avenues for dialogue.
Should I be a Facilitator?
Although I’ve not described the context for these statements fully, these types of statements make me cringe. Why? Because people who say these things often presume that consultants start dispensing advice without understanding and gathering an inventory of a client’s situation.
How to Make Project Closure and Client-Consultant Transitions Smooth
Eventually projects with consultants come to an end. Similar to completion of a good run as an employee of a firm, feelings at the end of a consulting project can be bittersweet. For me, the sweetness of successfully completing a project feels great, while the end of the day-to-day, close working relationship with the client can make one reflect for a moment longer.