We spend many of our working hours in meetings and, even if not all of them end up being productive, they are still a great way to conduct collaborative work.
Meetings promote creative thinking and innovative solutions and they help us connect and build relationships. Proper planning and preparation are needed to run better meetings, especially when it comes to stakeholders.
Stakeholders are different parties with an interest in the activity of an organization. There are two types of stakeholders, internal and external. Internal stakeholders work with a company and contribute directly to the success or failure of the business, while external stakeholders are outside parties positively or negatively affected by the activity of an organization.
Managers of all levels
Let’s take a look at what you can do to prepare for your next stakeholder meeting.
Understand the Purpose of the Meeting
The first step in preparing for any meeting is to make sure you are clear on the objectives. What is the purpose of this meeting? Is it to gather feedback from clients? Is your team making a presentation for an investor? Are you discussing terms with a collaborator? Each of these meetings would go completely different.
For example, in an interview with a customer, you shouldn’t reveal behind-the-scenes information about your business. Instead, there would be an approachable conversation about your services, usually moderated by a manager or someone responsible for customer experience.
On the other hand, for a meeting with a shareholder, you will need to be equipped with exact numbers and full reports. Different specialists could be asked to chime in and offer their expertise, discussing in-depth technical details about your product.
Reasons why you would organize a stakeholder meeting:
Provide reports and discuss an ongoing project
Receive and provide feedback
Educate someone on certain services and products
Plan future development
Settle complaints and arguments
Know Your Stakeholders
Find out what is their relationship with your business and what are their concerns. Are your stakeholders young clients who prefer a more casual environment or senior partners who require formal presentations and decorum?
The more you learn about the people involved in the meeting, the more you will know how to approach them. This will help you engage in a pleasant, fruitful conversation and will boost your confidence.
Create a Meeting Agenda
What to include in your meeting agenda:
Meeting talking points
Minutes spent on each topic
Any planned activities, when applicable (e.g. icebreaker games, brainstorming, voting, testing, role-playing)
Ideally, by following this roadmap, you should be able to successfully moderate the discussion and accomplish your goals for the meeting. But more often than not, meeting agendas are not as useful as they could be. Many people structure them as to-do lists, with not enough information.
To run better meetings, try to improve your agenda. Instead of hastily listing the topics, phrase the meeting talking points as questions.
Prepare Your Answers
Here are some tips on how to prepare for a productive discussion:
Consult the meeting agenda and refresh your memory beforehand, even when you feel confident about your knowledge. Be sure to go through all the topics from the meeting agenda, including the ones not covered by your team, so you can easily follow the conversation.
Rehearse the topics with your team and make sure that everyone knows when their input is needed.
Gather any materials necessary such as charts, handouts, graphs, statistics, prototypes, etc.
If you are presenting someone else’s work or speaking for the entire team, make sure that you get all your facts right from colleagues who are experts in the respective field.
When you are in control of the information, it gives you the freedom to adapt your answers on the spot, improvise when needed, and be creative with your solutions.
Be Ready For The Unexpected
Each project has its own risks. These risks must be assessed to discover which parts of the business could be affected. While this is not usually something that you would bring in a meeting, it’s possible that the stakeholders could ask about them. Don’t let this puzzle you.
Be prepared to answer unexpected and uncomfortable questions, even when you would prefer to avoid them. Before the meeting, devise an action plan to counteract possible risks or negative consequences and prepare multiple solutions.
Send Meeting Minutes
Meeting minutes are a point by point summary of the most relevant topics discussed in a meeting. Before the meeting, assign a designated note-taker to outline the discussion and write down specific details such as names or dates. Better yet, you can even record the meeting and use the transcript to create accurate materials.
During meetings, you offer valuable data, discuss solutions, reach conclusions, and establish action steps. Especially when it comes to formal gatherings like a stakeholder meeting, you need to make sure that you have an official record of the conversation available for future reference. This is why it’s important to take meeting notes and share them with everyone involved.
What to include in your meeting minutes:
Date, time, and place
Ideas and proposals
Sharing meeting minutes with all the participants and relevant parties is not only a healthy practice for your teamwork, but it can also offer legal protection. Depending on the importance of the meeting, some companies ask people to sign the meeting minutes in acknowledgement of the information exchange.