As a Health IT contractor, much of your time spent engaging with clients takes place in meetings. While spending time in meetings may not be high on your list of value-add activities, the fact is, effective meetings are a critical part of advancing projects.
Meetings that are poorly planned and run can be a waste of time for you and your client, can damage your credibility and erode client trust. In contrast, successful client meetings promote collaboration and communication, provide a clearer understanding of client needs and help build strong working relationships with your client.
To ensure your client meetings are effective and productive requires a well-defined objective, a clear and concise agenda, time management, active listening and a follow-up email.
Let’s dive into each of these requirements in more detail.
The purpose of a meeting objective is to make meetings as efficient as possible. Before scheduling a meeting, make sure you are clear on the objective - the desired outcome of the meeting. For example, the objective of the meeting might be to review and approve an integration timeline or gather input and come to agreement on the resolution of a specific issue.
Don’t overload the meeting with too many objectives. Try to focus on one or two. This avoids long drawn out meetings that can fail to keep the attention of participants and wear them out.
Clear, concise agenda
An agenda serves as a plan for what you want to cover during the meeting. A well-structured agenda helps keep your meeting running smoothly from start to finish and ensures you cover topics that need to be addressed.
Agendas should allot time for a past, present, future summary related to the meeting objective. Review what has been accomplished in the past to help your client see real progress, update them on what you are currently working on to create a sense of momentum and outline what you will be working on next to show them where you will be adding value in the near future.
Before your meeting takes place, share the agenda with your client so that they are aware of how the meeting will be structured and check in with them to make sure they agree with the meeting objective(s) and agenda.
Time is a valuable (and often in short supply) commodity for both you and your client, so it is important to keep meetings on track. Be mindful that one of the biggest challenges for keeping meetings running smoothly is off-topic conversations. Stay focused on the objective and the agenda and if the conversation veers off track, redirect it back to talking points on the agenda.
To maintain focus and meeting momentum, it is also helpful to take one-on-one conversations offline and note any unrelated questions or out-of-scope conversation for discussion at another time.
Additionally, be sure to begin the meeting on time and keep an eye on the clock to end on time.
Every meeting is an opportunity to connect with your clients and gain better clarity on their needs and concerns. Actively listening to your clients shows that you are focused on helping them and care about their input. Active listening involves being fully engaged with what your client is saying and asking intelligent questions to gain knowledge and perspective.
Follow up email
A post-meeting follow up email is a great way to keep everyone on the same page and ensure action items are completed.
This email should thank everyone who attended and recap the meeting. Be sure to summarize the main points of the discussion, decisions made, and additional information requested by your client.
Following up in this way creates a reminder of action items and next steps and maintains backup documentation that is easy for you and your client to reference.
Productive, efficient, and organized meetings are characterized by a well-defined objective, a clear and concise agenda, time management, active listening and a follow-up email. Planning, preparing and executing meetings in this way will help you deliver more value to your clients, maintain strong relationships with them and improve outcomes.
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