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There is a simple trick to standing out during your meetings and continuing to impress afterward. It’s so simple that it’s astounding that not very many people do it. What’s the trick? Schedule time in your calendar to prepare for and follow-up from meetings. When you schedule a meeting, you should actually add three appointments to your calendar.
Schedule Time to Prepare for Meetings
It doesn’t take long to prepare for most meetings — usually no more than 10 minutes. Sometimes you have the 10 minutes available just before the meeting, but more often than not, you are running in and out of meetings most of the day. The key here is to schedule a time when you’ll prepare: maybe it’s over morning coffee, or in several blocks of time in the afternoon. Whenever you do it, start your day knowing exactly when you’ll prepare.
Unfortunately, most people show up to a meeting without having given a moment’s thought to the meeting before they arrive. True, they may have had something pressing just before, but if they’ve known about the meeting for more than 24 hours, couldn’t they have found 5-10 minutes to prepare?
If you do this, you will be in the top tier of enjoyable meetings for those with whom you meet. It will make people feel that you have it together, and that you think they and their topic are important. This isn’t faking it, either — you really are valuing people’s time by giving an ounce of preparation to sitting down to chat with them.
Schedule Time to Follow-Up from Meetings
Schedule time after each meeting, or if necessary at the end of the day, to quickly process your action items from the meeting. Review your meeting notes, entering next steps and to-dos into your calendar. If possible, dash off a hand-written note, or e-mail if appropriate, to thank your contact for the meeting and provide any quick follow-up information.
Again, I guarantee that so few people do this, it will really impress your contacts. If you meet with the person at 11am, they’ll be very impressed if by 5pm they have an e-mail from you, thanking them for the meeting and providing a quick follow-up.
I am certainly not the perfect example of either of these practices. But both come from the encouragement of our office manager and executive assistant, Susan, who has encouraged me to find time to prepare and follow-up. The difference it makes when I’m “on it” is dramatic. It feels great to have gotten to-do items onto my to-do list and then deliver on them, rather than being that guy who never quite does what he says in a meeting he’s going to do.
Question: How does it make you feel when your contact has prepared to meet with you? Please leave a comment below.