Facilitate a Productive Meeting: How to Not Screw It Up

Don’t be that person who takes what could have been a productive meeting and turns it into a waste of time!

One of my husband’s doctors ordered a specialized test that required him to make a follow-up appointment to receive the results and have them explained. My husband chose a day that was a school holiday so that he would not have to spend time preparing lesson instructions for a substitute teacher. We also decided to schedule a second medical appointment two hours after this one in order to get it out of the way, so I took the day off from work. Since I am self-employed, this means I would have zero billable hours on this day – i.e., no income.

We arrived for our 9:00 appointment at 8:45. We were ushered from the waiting room to an examination room at 9:20. At 10:05, the nurse practitioner came into the room and said, “We don’t have any results. Apparently, there was some kind of hold up, and the company did not run your labs.”

We just sat there and glared at her. We couldn’t say what was spinning around in our heads, which was something like, “What the $#@*? We made this appointment six weeks ago, and you decided to wait until this morning to check on the results, and then had us wait OVER AN HOUR to tell us that coming here was absolutely USELESS? You’re telling us that one of the ten people who work in this office couldn’t bother to check ahead of time to see if everything that was needed for the appointment was ready to go?!”

In this moment of anger, I couldn’t think of a diplomatic way to phrase these sentiments, so I continued to just stare at her, firing invisible darts from my eyes into her face.

She squirmed a bit, gave that uncomfortable fake customer service smile and said, “I’ll make sure that I mark this file as ‘open’ so that it’s not counted as an office visit.”

My husband and I continued to sit there, boring holes into her with the death rays shooting out from our eyes. We were waiting for an apology and for her to state what she was going to do to rectify the situation.

She must have gotten the message from the telepathic snide remark I invisibly hurled her way because she then said, “I’ll contact your insurance company and the lab to see what the hold up is, and I’ll make sure they move forward. I apologize for any inconvenience.”

My husband nodded his acknowledgement and I replied, “Thank you for seeing to that,” as we got up to leave.

We lost almost half a day because this office didn’t follow simple steps to ensure a successful, productive meeting. Here’s what you can do to facilitate a productive meeting and make sure you avoid costing your clients time and money.

  1. Clarify with your customer the objective of the meeting.
  2. Confirm the date and time of the meeting.
  3. Create the agenda for the meeting, notating who is responsible for each deliverable or topic.
  4. Schedule time on your calendar to prepare for the meeting.
  5. Prepare the items for which you’re responsible.
  6. The week prior, reconfirm the meeting date/time and the deliverability of any information or materials. If for any reason the necessary information or materials will not be ready for the meeting, make arrangements to reschedule.

It’s quite simple, really. It’s a process that promotes both efficiency and common courtesy, not to mention it will turn your customers into your PR team to promote your services instead of an angry couple who lets the world know how you operate with a lack of planning, courtesy and remorse.

For complete step-by-step instructions on how to develop and facilitate a productive meeting, be sure to read Chapter 29 in The Inefficiency Assassin: Time Management Tactics for Working Smarter, Not Longer.

About Helene Segura, M.A. Ed., CPO®

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