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Tips for Better Meetings



As trusted advisors, accounting professionals have more meetings with their clients and colleagues than ever. It’s essential to ensure those meetings are operating at an optimal level. You want your team and client to understand the purpose of each meeting and get everyone on the same page before and after the meeting. 


Here are our top five tips for better meetings.  


Have a clear leader and scribe 

It’s common for client meetings to involve more than one person from your team in the discussion. You want to be sure that you know who will lead the conversation to avoid awkward silences and stumbling over each other. You also want to know who will be responsible for taking notes throughout the meeting so the leader can focus on the client discussion.  


Up-front agenda 

Up-front agendas are essential for client meetings to ensure everyone attending understands the purpose of the meeting and the expected outcomes. The agenda should outline the purpose of the meeting and expected results and communicate any expectations you have for your team members and the client. 


If your client needs to provide information before the meeting, indicate that on that agenda. Here is an example of what your up-front communication with the client might look like: 


Hello John, Lisa and Tom, 


XYZ CPA Firm is looking forward to our upcoming meeting to discuss your company's future. During this initial discussion, we would like to hear a brief history of your organization, where you stand today and your future goals. We will also take some time to introduce ourselves and the roles that we will play in our ongoing relationship if you choose to move forward with working with us. 


At the end of this meeting, we will better understand the services we can offer your company and if this would be a good fit. If we mutually agree that this is a good fit, our team will work to put together a proposal of those services that we can provide.  


Be on time 

You must start and end your meetings on time. This shows your clients and colleagues that you are excited to speak with them and respect their time. If it looks like the meeting might start to run over, evaluate your agenda and let the other attendees know you want to cover certain higher-priority items. Shuffle a few items around and touch on the higher-priority items; other things can wait until the next meeting. 


Remember, if one meeting goes over, it’s likely to throw off all other meetings.  


Mindfully manage your meetings 

Try to allocate a certain amount of time per topic in your agenda. Utilizing the communication example above, let’s say the meeting is expected to last 60 minutes. Here is what the agenda could look like: 


Introductions – 5 minutes 

Client History/Current State/Future Vision – 30 minutes 

Questions – 10 minutes 

Our Solutions – 10 minutes 

Wrap-up and Next Steps – 5 minutes 


There is always wiggle room, but having some parameters helps to keep the conversation following and on track. Beware of “bunny trails.” This is when someone in the meeting talks and talks, causing the discussion to go off on tangents that aren’t relevant to the agenda. In these cases, you need a “parking lot” or a list of new subjects to be dealt with later. 


Creating a parking lot reassures the person who raised the point that their subject will not be forgotten.  If any bunny trails start to occur, use the parking lot. 


End the meeting with clear next steps and action items 

A successful meeting must end with clear next steps and action items for the appropriate individuals. Discuss when the next meeting should take place and schedule it. If you plan to provide the client with a proposal, discuss their expectations for receiving it and when you’ll send it. If you need additional information from them, request it verbally. Write it down and send a debrief email outlining those items again.  


It’s your responsibility as the service provider to ensure that the client stays on track and provides any information you need to give them the best service possible. 


There are plenty of other tips for productive meetings, but in our experience, if you follow these five tips for every meeting, you will see positive results and happier clients, both internally and externally.  

 

As the Solutions Manager for Boomer Consulting, Inc., Deanna works to help clients and prospective clients identify their dangers, opportunities and strengths. Once these are identified, she works to develop a personalized game plan for their firm to focus on the area, or areas, they need to improve on most. These areas are critical to a firm’s success and future-readiness; Leadership, Talent, Technology, Process and Growth.

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