Top tips for avoiding meeting mayhem

Tristan By Tristan

meeting-1219525_640It might not be the most glamorous or exciting aspect of the job, but one of the many things I’ve noticed over the years that I’ve been working in tech PR is that we end up in a lot of meetings and conference calls. These are of course a vital part of the job; without them, we’d most likely be running around like a disorderly mob, with no clear plan or objective in sight.

Having a regular conflab with our colleagues and clients is essential to keeping everything on track and coming up with the great ideas that deliver the awesome coverage that we pride ourselves on.

However, meetings can very quickly snowball and become a drain on everyone’s time if you don’t keep them under control; especially when you end up having meetings about meetings (or even a nightmarish hall of mirrors-type scenario where you have meetings about meetings about meetings…).

Of course, this trend isn’t just localised to PR; it’s something that our clients face internally, as I’m sure does anyone working in any office-based profession anywhere in the world. In the spirit of sharing, here are my top tips for keeping meetings as productive as they can be and avoiding getting trapped in meeting mania:

  • Have the right people in the room – Quite often, the temptation is to invite everyone and anyone to attend every meeting, but it might not always be necessary. True, nobody likes to feel left out, but in a professional environment, it’s worse to be pointlessly stuck on the sidelines. A good place to start is thinking about who you need in the room to achieve the objectives before sending out the invite; are you planning a full-scale PR campaign that needs all-hands on deck, or is it just a quick catch-up on day-to-day activity that can be handled by one or two team members? The chances are that those who aren’t invited won’t feel left out – they’ll be glad to have the time back.

  • Have a clear agenda set – It’s very easy for meetings to drift off course if you haven’t laid out a clear agenda at the outset. In just the same way that we wouldn’t go to pitch for a new client without a proposal in place or pick up the phone to pitch a client’s story to a journalist without an idea of what that story is; you should never go into a meeting without an agenda laid out.

  • Share the agenda in advance – It’s also a good idea to send around your meeting agenda in advance, so everyone has a chance to prepare any updates that they have, or make some last-minute calls to their media contacts so that they do have an update. As well as helping less prepared (or busier) team members to avoid the embarrassment of being caught with their trousers down, this can also speed things up considerably. Giving everyone time to consider any updates they need to share in advance rather than having to think on the spot saves a lot of awkward silences in the meeting.

  • Know what you want to achieve – it might sound obvious, but it’s very easy to just end up in a meeting for the sake of it, especially when it’s a regularly recurring one. To avoid that risk, the organiser and anyone attending the meeting should think about what they want to achieve. For example, if existing PR activities are on track, but there are no new ideas in the hopper, would it be worth using the time to brainstorm new campaign ideas, or proactive media interview/feature pitches instead? This can help to avoid meetings becoming a tick-box exercise and ensure everyone gets the most out of them.

  • Don’t be afraid to dispense with a meeting – Having a recurring weekly meeting scheduled can be a great way of ensuring you don’t forget to catch-up and keep PR activity flowing, and saves the hassle of finding a time each week that everyone is free. However, it also makes it easy to forget that sometimes, you just don’t need the meeting. If everyone is on track and knows what they’re doing, canceling this week’s meeting to give everyone their time back may be far more beneficial to productivity; giving everyone more time to be doing actual PR work.

Feel free to add any tips of your own in the comments below if you think there’s anything I’ve missed.