By Bridget McCrea
With the NAED national meeting right around the corner (May 16-19 at the Hyatt Regency Chicago), now is the time to start shoring up your company’s business-to-business meeting strategy and prepping for some productive interactions at the event. In this 2-part series, tED magazine looks at the value of prepping in advance for these meetings and shares expert tips on how to extract the biggest benefit from this face-time – both at the national meeting and on a year-round basis.
Check out 5 advanced planning techniques for B2B meetings in our previous story.
As co-founder of Austin, Texas-based TEAMINGS, a provider of meeting technology and services, Courtney Muehlmeier has seen lot of business-to-business interactions go haywire. That’s because getting all of the right people on the right page and at the right time is a challenge at any juncture, let alone at a very busy national meeting. “To get the most benefit from the micro-meetings that you set up at an event like this, you really need to do some advanced planning and brainstorming,” says Muehlmeier. “Otherwise, it will go off the rails pretty quickly and waste everyone’s time.”
One of the best ways to eke the most out of short B2B appointments is by applying strong fundamentals from the outset. “There’s an old saying from Sun Tzu, ‘Every battle is won before it’s ever fought,'” says Muehlmeier. “This succinct sentence reminds us that preparation plus execution equals success. In order to have an effective meeting, proper meeting prep needs to be done.”
Three Main Meeting Prep Functions
According to Muehlmeier, there are three main functions of meeting prep to help run an effective meeting: Sharpen your meeting objective, identify your best participants, and ensure that everyone is prepared. As part of this effort, he says distributors also need to ask themselves the following questions in advance of the meeting:
- What do we want to accomplish?
- What are our desired outcomes?
- Why do we want to accomplish these outcomes?
- How important is the final result?
- When should the desired result be accomplished by?
- How will we measure success?
- How can this result best be accomplished?
“Once you have the answers to these questions, you can write out an objective,” says Muehlmeier, who advises distributors to add “purpose” to that meeting objective in an effort to highlight the importance of the desired outcome. Key questions to ask yourself include, Why do you want this objective accomplished? What will happen if your objective isn’t accomplished? What will happen if it is accomplished? How much impact will it have on the business? “The motive for an outcome can be just as important as the outcome itself,” says Muehlmeier.
For example, you could want to shorten the sales cycle so you can lower costs and avoid layoffs or maybe you want to shorten the sales cycle because you’ve noticed significantly high drop offs when sales reps are confronted with objections. These separate purposes lead to different discussions. “By stating the purpose in your meeting objective ahead of time,” says Muehlmeier, “you lead the direction of the discussion and make efficient use of your team’s time.”
Step Out of Your Comfort Zone
Once meeting objectives are established, it’s time to create agendas that align with those micro-meeting objectives. As part of this process, be sure to factor in the short timeframe that will be available to discuss the key points. If the meeting will only be 20 minutes in duration, for example, come up with just three to four bullet points to discuss and then save any follow-up or less important issues for another time (via email or phone, for example). “Remember that you’re going to be working in small, collaborative groups,” says Muehlmeier, “which lends itself to having a short, concise agenda that everyone reviews in advance and contributes to.”
Ultimately, Muehlmeier says distributors can get the most out of their national meeting face-time by putting an effort into the pre-planning and preparation stage. “Don’t just expect to be able to put 15 minutes into pre-meeting preparation as you’re walking into the event,” says Muehlmeier. “Start now. Get out of your comfort zone and don’t just wing it. Get everyone vested early in the process and vet any issues or problems in advance. That way, when it comes time to get down to business, you’ll all be able to have a much more productive interaction.”
Have You Filled These 6 Critical Meeting Roles?
According to Courtney Muehlmeier, these are the six most important roles that distributors should think about when setting up their B2B meetings:
- Leader/Host/Chairperson – The meeting leader plans and coordinates the meeting. This person sharpens the meeting objective, puts together the agenda, negotiates the meeting time, books the venue or selects the meeting means, invites proper attendees, and invites helpful speakers and presenters.
- Facilitator/Moderator – The facilitator helps the group through the agreed meeting process and focuses the group on the meeting objective. This person listens actively, asks questions, paraphrases, checks for common understanding, tracks discussions, synthesizes ideas, offers clear summaries, and designs meeting activities with the meeting objective in mind.
- Attendees/Participants – Attendees have a special role to play in each meeting – to be present and fully engaged. They are responsible for coming prepared to each meeting. They can contribute items to the agenda, undertake assigned tasks, and report progress.
- Support/Meeting Room Manager – Every meeting needs some type of administrative support. Ideally, this support shouldn’t come from the leader or facilitator as they have content and process to focus on. Support roles include technological support (link to meeting room manager blog), venue management, time keeping, and minute taking.
- Speakers/Presenters – Speakers contribute to the content of a meeting. They dedicate time and energy planning and practicing speeches and presentations. They incorporate ways to engage with attendees.
- Relevant Resources – Resources provide information necessary to support and help guide decisions. These can be industry experts, department heads or anyone else who has the information you need to meet your objective. They answer questions and provide input throughout the meeting.
Knowing that not every B2B micro-meeting will include 6+ participants, Muehlmeier says multiple people can fill each role, just as one person can perform multiple roles for simple meetings. “The key is to ensure each role is filled in a way that will best achieve your meeting objective,” he says. “If your objective is simple, the leader can also be the facilitator, presenter, and meeting room manager. If your meeting objective is complex and impactful to your business, you may want to have each role filled by at least one distinctive person.”
McCrea is a Florida-based writer who covers business, industrial, and educational topics for a variety of magazines and journals. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her website at www.expertghostwriter.netTagged with tED