Coordinating and leading effective meetings has always been a critical skill in the business world – and in today’s digital age, that skill is more critical than ever.
But of course, being an effective meeting leader is easier said than done.
I routinely hear from customer success managers about the challenges they face with meetings. Some common issues are managing time properly, keeping the conversation on the topic, and putting together great follow-up notes.
First, before we jump into a few great ways to improve your meetings, ask yourself a simple question: is it necessary? Having unnecessary meetings cuts your time as a busy CSM and your customers’ time. Can the topic be addressed appropriately in a Slack message or email instead? If so, it’s probably best to avoid having a meeting. Everyone has their own preference, but a good rule of thumb is if three or more replies are necessary, you should have a meeting; if not, cancel it.
An actionable acronym developed as part of the Growth Molecules Customer Success Foundation Program for remembering ways to improve how you lead customer meetings is S.T.A.R.T.™
Let’s walk through each letter and its importance:
Having the right people at the meeting is arguably the most critical aspect of leading an effective meeting. That’s because not having the right people in your meetings hampers the productivity of the meeting; it can also lead to more meetings being scheduled to speak with the appropriate people.
The sweet spot for meetings tends to be having six people present, but that’s not set in stone – you should adjust that number to whatever is appropriate for the type of meeting. Why is six the sweet spot? Having too many people in a meeting inevitably leads to too many voices, making it hard for everyone to be heard, especially if not everyone is a stakeholder in the topic or issue at hand. It can also push the meeting away from its objective. And having not enough people in the meeting can result in an uninspiring discussion because not enough is being contributed.
Make sure to consider the team members you invite to the meeting.
T – Time
The next step is to schedule your meeting. That means setting it for an appropriate amount of time, making sure your “squad” is aware of the time, and allowing them to let you know if they will be able to make the meeting or not; they may also let you know they can only stay for part of the meeting. For example, you could say “We have 25 minutes together today – does that time together work for everyone?” If a key decision maker can’t stay for the entire conversation, you might want to consider rescheduling the meeting or adjusting the agenda. (More on that below.)
A – Agenda
Don’t wing it. You should always have an agenda for your meeting. And to keep your meeting focused and on-task, limit the agenda to 2-3 items. Too many agenda items limit the possibility of accomplishing them in the designated amount of time. When items are completed, the meeting feels more successful and more beneficial to the client – not just another meeting.
Additionally, you should ask your client if there is anything they would like to add to the agenda. Keep in mind that as the client-company relationship leader, you have to control these meetings. But by giving space for your client to add something, you give some power back to them. They feel connected and valued in their part of the journey with you. It also may in turn highlight things you didn’t know before and now can prepare for instead of being blindsighted later because you didn’t ask. And I’d rather be prepared (when you can).
Be sure to send out the agenda at least two days in advance, sent via email or even added to your calendar event description. This gives your squad full transparency, lets them know what to expect, and gives them time to add anything to the agenda that they feel is pressing.
R – Reason
Again, don’t have a meeting just to have a meeting. Think about a day in your life right now – have you ever felt that way? Your meeting should have clear goals for you and everyone else in attendance. In other words, a reason for taking place and having everyone collaborate.
Always be mindful of your objective. What are you trying to accomplish with your meeting? This is why your squad is there, taking time out of their day to join. You should have accountability for the goal, implementation, and outcome of the meeting. An example of this would look like: “Today we are meeting to review and determine low usage for active users, so we can meet our user participation goals and get back on track for your quarterly goals.” Whether the meeting is customer-driven or journey-driven, your reason establishes why the time is needed.
T – Thanks
Lastly, remember to thank everyone for their time. Simple yes, but effective. When is the last time someone thanked you, simply for just showing up to a meeting? How did that feel? Showing gratitude is a simple way to help to validate your client and build trust. It shows that their time is valuable and appreciated because let’s face it, they may have a lot of other programs and services that are asking for meetings too and not many actually thank them for their time.
Putting it all together, START™ can make your meetings even more efficient than ever before, and you don’t even need to go in order, but rather include all the components to having a strong start with your clients. Here is a sample of this methodology in action:
“Good afternoon, everyone. Is there anyone else we are expecting to join us? We have 30 minutes together – does that time still work for everyone to accomplish our goals, or do we need to adjust? In our time together, we plan on reviewing [agenda], does anyone here have anything they’d like to add to our time together? Thank you for your time today and partnering together to accomplish our goal of [reason].”