Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Better Prep, Faster Meetings

What's the minimum meeting length? Not for standup or other ritual meetings, but for an actual meeting with someone you don't speak with often? 30 minutes? 45?

Sometimes you don't have that kind of time. Sometimes you just have to put your head down and get what you need out of the meeting. This is particularly true of "starter" meetings - introductions, tutorials, etc.

For example, I have a meeting scheduled tomorrow with a very simple agenda. Here's the whole thing, copied from the meeting invite:
"Understand if product meets our needs"

That's it. It's not even a particularly complex product. The vendor asked for an hour, but due to scheduling issues we're going to have twenty minutes at most. So, can we get what we need in a 20 minute meeting? I say yes, as long as we're all very prepared.

What do I want out of the meeting? I want to know if the product has various features, and I want to check for a few common gotchas to see if there are any extensibility problems.

What does the vendor want out of the meeting? A sale. Or at least a step closer to a sale.

So the real agenda is much less vague. It's going to go like this:

  • (3 minutes) Hellos and who are we
  • (2 minutes) Overview of project
  • (12 minutes) I ask questions and the vendor answers immediately or notes which ones require more research to answer.
  • (3 minutes) Thank you and next steps
That's it. You'll notice that with detail comes responsibility. Before the meeting I have to have a very crisp list of questions to ask. (They'll take the form "Does your product support print to PDF?" "What are the formatting options for that kind of printing?") The vendor knows we're tight on time, and is bringing his senior sales engineer to the meeting so we can answer as many questions as possible.

Because I'm prepared, and because the vendor knows to be prepared we'll get through the meeting. Anyone calling into the meeting without preparation is going to be completely lost. And that's okay - we don't have time to "catch people up". This is about accomplishing things. Keep up.

So if you're in a hurry, go ahead and do the meeting. Just be prepared.

1 comment:

  1. After your meeting, I wonder if when you look back if you'll realize 20 minutes was all you needed after all. It'd be a good proving ground for future meetings where someone wants a full hour.

    Like the saying goes, 'Work expands so as to fill the time allotted.' Schedule an hour, it's gonna take an hour, regardless of how much work actually needs to be done.

    ReplyDelete