Productivity Expert and Author Dori Sella Shares the Checklist That Will Make Your Meetings More Productive

As a busy founder, it isn’t unusual to look at your calendar and see a big block of back-to-back meetings, leaving you with no time to get actual work done—work that’s crucial in the early stages. Labs mentor and best-selling author of Business Meetings that Work: 6 Steps to Increase Productivity, Dori Sella, held a Labs session about her pre-meeting checklist to make your meetings more productive, efficient, and actually worth your time. She recommends structuring your checklist as follows:

#1: Objectives

When planning any meeting, you should have your objectives broken up into three levels:

  • Long-range
  • Medium-range
  • Objectives that are specific to that meeting, or “success criteria

#2: People

When scheduling meetings, it’s important to make a few considerations about the people attending. Keep the following points and questions in mind:

  • Treat attendees like customers
  • What stage are your attendees in?
  • Who should you bring with you?
  • Are you aligned?

Every business meeting is a sales meeting, according to Sella. Your goal should be to influence someone to make a decision that aligns with your thinking and vision. With that in mind, Sella recommends treating everyone in your meeting as a “customer,” regardless of their relation to you—direct reports, partners, etc. Ensure that these “customers” are the right people for the objective of your meeting. For example, you’re looking to raise capital, you should be speaking to a venture capitalist. If you’re looking to acquire more customers, you should be speaking to whomever on your team handles marketing.

Next, consider what stage the person is in. “Are they unaware of the problem you’re focusing on during this meeting? Do they know about it? Are they in a situation where they're comparing options or are they ready to commit to a decision?” Sella says. Finally, consider who you may need to bring with you to your meeting to help you make your case and make sure you’re aligned on objectives with this person.

#3: State of mind

People usually make decisions based on what state of mind they’re in, so it’s important to be observant and quick thinking during and after your meeting by considering the following:

  • Define their state of mind
  • What state do you want them in?
  • From A to Z
  • Differentiate between states

“You need to define what state people attending the meeting are going to be in at the beginning, what state you want them to be in at the end, ‘from A to Z’, and what states they are going to go through. You gauge this by looking at their body language,” Sella says.

Be mindful that not everyone is going to be in the same state and that you have to be ready to pivot your meeting based on how people are reacting to you. “You've got to watch them the entire time,” Sella says. But don’t forget to consider your own state of mind, which needs to match the objectives of the meeting. Being in the right state can be the difference between you being able to get your objective across successfully or not.  

#4: Content

The most important part of any meeting, besides the preparation, is the actual content that drives it. But there’s more to consider than just slideshows, objectives, and bullet points. Think about the following:

  • Manage your time
  • Create rapport or chemistry
  • What’s relevant?
  • Questions

It’s essential to be aware of how much time you have for your meeting. If your meeting is 30 minutes, don’t prepare an hour's worth of content as you likely won’t get through it all or you’ll have to rush to get through it all.

Next, try to create chemistry between you and those attending the meeting. “Use chemistry to create rapport and to change unwanted states, especially at the beginning of meetings, and then focus on the content of your meeting that is relevant to get your objective across. There's a lot of ways to create rapport—mirroring and matching movements, breathing, words, content, what they're saying. Or, if you know that the person you are meeting with is upset about something, give them a second to talk about what’s bothering them,” Sella says.

Finally, prepare responses to any questions you think may come up. If you ever find yourself in a situation where a last-minute meeting has come up and you don’t have time to think up potential questions and responses, focus on your objective and your state of mind instead, Sella says.

#5: Objections

Objections are a natural part of any meeting. If people don't have objections, they're not with you,” Sella says. Similar to content, before any meeting you should always brainstorm on any objections that may come up and try to answer them beforehand.

Also, remember that not every participant may be willing to speak up and ask raise objections, so think ahead and prepare responses to objections you can think of that people may not be raising.

#6 Closing

“Closing can be the most important part of the meeting. Leave time for it. Plan any next steps in advance. Figure out who can help you with your objectives” Sella says. Always remember to leave an open door for any follow-up conversations or questions and to keep things on amicable terms, even if the meeting didn’t pan out as planned. “The world is round,” Sella says.”You never know when you're going to meet someone again and under what circumstances.”  

Read more articles on productivity.

This post is based on content from a WeWork Labs programming session.

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