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In a recent study conducted by Ipos Open Think Exchange (IPOS OTS) and Ipos Global @dvisor, 88 per cent of the survey’s 500 Canadian respondents prefer in-person meetings versus telephone meetings.

Interesting results, considering how reliant we are on technological tools, including email, webinars, web conferences, telephone conferences, etc.  Technology certainly offers a lot of benefits, including time savings, the ability to fire off an email regardless of the time, reduced transportation costs, reduced entertainment costs, and ease in setting up meetings. These benefits are especially poignant for diverse workgroups located in various areas.

But, and survey respondents certainly agree, nothing replaces the effectiveness of a face-to-face meeting.

And considering how much we depend on technology, which, in a way, shelters us from in-person communications, here is a refresher as to how to run face-to-face meetings.

All of these suggestions apply to formal or informal meetings. Be them over a coffee, or in a boardroom. They apply to everyone, regardless of your business specialty.

Follow these five tips to ensure productive face-to-face communication.

1. Set a meeting objective

Why are you meeting? What is it that you want to discuss? Create a clear, concise purpose and objective for the conversation. Tell participants (one or many) what you are going to discuss and why it is significant. This will help people understand the topic, objective, their role in the meeting, and how they can prepare for it.

Goal: one clear, concise sentence.

2. Set an agenda

By setting an agenda, you will respect people’s time, ensure that the meeting moves forward (instead of getting caught in the weeds), and is productive.  By letting your participants know the agenda in advance, they should arrive prepared to discuss the topic, instead of spending valuable time focusing on the ad-hoc topic.

Goal: one to three points. If you have more than three points, hold a separate meeting.

3. Encourage each person to participate

Ask questions, give time and space (i.e., be silence) for each person to offer their thoughts, perspectives, and opinions. This is easier if it is a conversation between two people, but vitally important regardless of the number of participants. Reserve judgment so that each person is encouraged to offer their comments, which means no rolling of the eyes, sighs, or frowns. Watch both your verbal and non-verbal communication. If you disagree, ask questions to understand points of view.

Goal: be curious. Ask everyone for their opinion.

4. Summarize the outcome

At the meeting, and this should be the final item of your agenda, summarize the discussion. Ask if you have understood all of the points raised. Ensure that you have consensus before you adjourn.

Goal: one concise sentence.

5. Follow up

This might be where technology comes in. Send an email to participants shortly after the meeting adjourns (the sooner the better) to remind everyone of the conversation. Be sure to include the initial objective of the conversation, pertinent points, the summary of the discussion, and the “next steps.”

Goal: remind participants of the meeting and their obligations to keep the momentum long after the conversation.

Face-to-face meetings are valuable, if executed properly. Be organized to maximize your time and resource investment.


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