In order to lead successfully, important meetings require more time to prepare and follow-up than to attend.

In my experience, at all levels of business, most individuals come with bare bones prepared agendas or mere discussion topics, which allow for open-ended conversations that often have weak follow-up and follow-through. 

Many of the items discussed could be presented in writing before or at the start of the meeting to create a mutual understanding of facts – This process enables a productive strategic discussion, allows for finer attention to details and effective delegation of responsibilities.

At TH3RD BRAIN, we pride ourselves on creating comprehensive agendas for the meetings we lead (unless it’s a solely creative discussion, and even then, sometimes the meeting can still use a guide of some sort). Why is it important to do it this way?

In addition to getting the best results, the extra mile is the road less traveled.

My friend and best-selling author Tim Sanders (he wrote Love is the Killer App) used this method of preparing amply for meetings and following up generously to climb the corporate ladder – he was promoted six times over the three years between 1998 and 2001.

In typical lovecat fashion, Tim was kind enough to share his thoughts on preparation and follow-through with us –

When I was working for Mark Cuban at broadcast.com, he once told us at a 1997 all-hands: “My most valuable resource is my time. I only spend time with people who value my time.”

This resonated with me because I was in business development and sales, and getting time with big shots like Mark was hard to come by.

And worse, too often, your big-break-intro with someone turns into a one-and-done encounter. So I designed a process, where I’d prepare for each meeting with “high return on attention” (ROA) in mind.

I thought of needs my conversational partner has and find insights and research to bring to the meeting “as a gift.” I turned off my phone during meetings and engaged 100%, taking notes. Then the day after the meeting, I’d send a short summary of what I heard, what I’ve thought about since then and when I’m going to follow up on my end.

Within a few months, I was meeting with CEOs from Neiman Marcus, Blockbuster, 7-11 and Victoria’s Secret. I’d start by wowing a director, who would then tell his/her boss, “you gotta meet Tim.”

After Cuban sold broadcast.com to Yahoo, and I leaped at the opportunity to relocate to the Silicon Valley. In less than two years, I moved up the ladder to chief solutions officer, one high ROA meeting at a time.

When is the last time you were in a meeting with somebody who approached you with the energy, foresight, and generosity Tim shared above? Can you remember one?

Once again, the extra mile is a road less traveled, and when you choose to take that road, you set yourself up to win.

My rule of thumb is an hour and a half meeting with a client will take at least two hours to prepare for and at least two hours to take actions on the decisions made at the meeting – so you’re looking at spending over double as much time preparing and following up than being in the meeting itself.

In closing, I have thoroughly enjoyed raising the expectations of what a successful meeting looks like at TH3RD BRAIN. In addition to making better decisions alongside our artists and ensuring every detail is handled appropriately, I feel we are consistently presenting our best self, and that is the definition of success.

This post is NOT about a specific meeting I have had or person or company I work with. This has been my experience over the last several years and thought it was worth sharing with you as I believe there is a better way.

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