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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, April 19, 2010

Wasting time in meetings? Go with an objective in mind

By Andrea Kay

When most people head into a meeting, one big thing is usually missing. An objective. They simply don't know what they want to accomplish. And for sure, they're not thinking about a broader, more strategic objective.

I can say this with certainty because every day I meet with people who want me to help them pack the biggest punch for their upcoming meeting. A sit-down with a potential employer. A gathering with board members, a boss or referral.

And when I ask what I always ask, which is, "What is your objective?" there is always silence.

Feeling pressed, they think a few seconds, then come up with agenda items. But my question is asking for something very different. It's asking for this broader and more strategic take on the meeting. Put simply, what do you want to accomplish in this precious time you have together?

If you don't know, you're frittering away that valuable time.

Without a clear not to mention strategic objective, here's what happens: You stray off course. You say the wrong stuff. You leave wondering why you wasted your time. You kick yourself for blowing an opportunity.

If, though, you have a strategic objective, you'll get scads more accomplished and, more likely, get what you want.

Take this man, who had been at his new job at an advertising agency two weeks when his boss sent him to meet a client for whom they had created a four-color full-page magazine ad.

"Don't let him change anything," the boss instructed him.

But instead of thinking he was there to simply get the work approved, he had a broader, more strategic objective in mind: "To get this client to realize we had created the perfect ad. And I never let that objective leave my head the entire meeting," explained the man.

He spent two hours convincing the client the ad was on strategy, communicated the right message to his target audience and fulfilled the brand's promise.

When the client wanted to tweak the headline, "I gave him five reasons why that was counter to the original objective. The next day when my boss asked what needed to be changed, I told him, nothing. He said that had never happened in the five-year history with this client."

Networking meetings and job interviews will also be more productive if you first think through your broader, strategic objective.

Most people enter networking meetings to "get names." This is a terrible objective. It's insulting and limiting. A better objective:

"I want this person to be so blown away by my expertise in accounting and my understanding of payroll, tax strategies and the workings of a small business, they'll be salivating to be my cheerleader. They'll want to refer me to everyone they can think of. They may even want me to work for them!"

Asking for a raise? Change your objective from getting more money to getting your boss to understand you're so valuable he can't imagine life without you.

In a job interview, change your objective from acing the interview to developing a great dialogue and relationship so that the employer will see you as someone they like and want to seriously explore as a good match.

Want better results from your meetings? Take five minutes to think through this question: What do I really want to accomplish in this meeting?