My day starts and ends in Webex, Zoom and Teams. In the seven-plus years I’ve been an industry analyst, I’ve perfected a meeting template that gets great results for me and my clients.
My meetings are likely different from yours. My interactions are about sharing insight, knowledge transfer and offering assurance on best practices, architectures, technology selection, skill development and organization design and so on.
This is different from meetings in most companies, which may be used to share information, make a decision or review previous decisions. That doesn’t mean you can’t get value from this template. Each element of this 30-minute template will help you run more effective meetings by clarifying the purpose, assuring direction and establishing next steps.
Each interaction is broken into six segments. These aren’t firm time ranges. They’re more of an idea about how long each segment usually takes.
Meeting Starts (Start time until about 2 minutes in)
“Is it just the two of us today or are we expecting some of your colleagues?”
There’s no point starting until the decision makers are present. When someone joins the call, I check if we have quorum or if we’re waiting for more people. Any delay is filled with small talk or background about what the group wants to discuss. I don’t offer any information at this point since I’ll only have to repeat it once the decision makers join.
Confirm The Topic (2–4 minutes)
“It looks like you want to talk about [topic]. Is that still the case or have things evolved?”
There’s always a gap between when a client books the meeting and when it’s delivered. But the client hasn’t been sitting still. They may have done their own research, spoken with colleagues, or reviewed vendor materials. It’s valuable to spend a few minutes verifying the topic with the client. If the topic has changed significantly, we may need to reschedule to allow more time to prep. Worst case, they may need to speak with someone else.
However, these can still be salvaged. Here’s how:
“I know you want to talk about ERP modernization today, which I can’t cover. But I can discuss X, Y and Z. Since we’re already here, do you want to spend some time on those topics?”
Most of the time, people are happy to spend a few minutes getting educated on a new topic. It also helps that I cover data and analytics, which is a broad and challenging topic for every company. There’s always something to talk about.
With the topic set, it’s time to gather context.
Background (4–8 minutes)
“I’ve got some background here but maybe you can give me some additional context. What are you looking for in today’s call?”
This gives the client a chance to set expectations with me and the others on the call. It also tells me what I need to do to deliver a great result and the line of questioning to get there. I’ll ask several probing questions to get to the real reason we’re talking. The most powerful question I ask is: Why are you asking about this now? That triggers the floodgates. The call may have been scoped on how to hire more data engineers, but the core problem is each business unit wants its own engineering team and all the challenges that entails.
The topic on the call sheet is rarely the thing the client wants to talk about. You have to dig.
Discussion (8–15 minutes)
This segment is typically me talking, sharing content and data. Each call is different, but this might include offering a macro or industry-specific view, trends and how they’re shifting, and so on. It could also just be best practices, organization changes, or technology details.
All of this takes me to the midpoint.
The Value Check (15 minutes)
“Is this helping? Are you getting what you’d hoped out of the call or do you want to go in a different direction?”
Checking in with the client is essential. You can’t spew data at someone for 30 minutes and hope you’re hitting the mark. Stop and ask if they’re getting what they want. One of two things will happen:
- You’ll learn that you’ve been going in the wrong direction and the client’s needs are elsewhere.
- You’re nailing it and the client’s happy.
Getting the client to say they’re getting value from the call is essential. Clients rate every call. I believe I get higher evaluations if I can get the client to state they’re getting value.
Next Steps (26 minutes)
I can’t answer everything in a 30-minute call. Today’s IT challenges are complex and often require several calls with multiple experts to resolve. The last segment connects them with other people they should speak to, research to review and other content to consume. Then I put all that into an email to the client.
And that’s it. Following this template allows me to consistently deliver value to a range of clients. The template also reduces my cognitive load, allowing me to spend more cycles on the client’s questions rather than thinking about running the meeting.