Spending Too Much Time in Meetings?

Productive meetings are an essential element in developing a management team that works well together and produces results. Yet too many managers complain that they spend too much time in meetings.

Carefully Consider Number of Attendees

Try to limit the attendees to only those who really need to be there, based on the purpose for the meeting. Each person you add significantly increases the amount of time you’ll need. The following formula shows why:

(n = number of attendees) x (n – 1) = potential conversation interchanges.

For example, say you have three attendees: A, B, and C. Person A can initiate an exchange with B; B with A; A with C; C with A; B with C; and C with B. Using the formula, this calculates as 3 x 2 = 6.

If you add a fourth person, the formula changes to 4 x 3 = 12. By adding just one more person, you might double the required time for the meeting. Add a fifth, and you’re looking at 20 potential conversation interchanges. Add a sixth, and it goes up to 30.

It’s easy to see how meetings can last so long. Make sure you have an agreed-upon agenda and time to end.




Check Your Assumptions About Assumptions

Assumptions. We bring them to every meeting, every decision. We believe in them and often steadfastly defend them.

Many assumptions come from experience, while others come from perspective; still others from habit or tradition. “It’s the way we always do things around here.”

Unchallenged assumptions can kill creativity and thwart change.

Merely challenging assumptions helps to explore breakthrough possibilities that might never surface. What assumptions can you challenge today?

Five Infamous Assumptions:

 “I think there is a world market for about five computers.”

 Thomas Watson, Founder IBM

“There is not the slightest indication that nuclear energy will ever be obtainable. It would mean that the atom would have to be shattered at will.”

 Albert Einstein

 “This ‘telephone’ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us.”

 A memo at Western Union, 1878 (or 1876)

 “It will be gone by June.”

 Variety, passing judgment on rock ‘n roll in 1955

“I don’t need bodyguards.”

 Jimmy Hoffa, Playboy Interview 1975


Writing Used to be Just Writing, Right? Not Anymore.

If you are writing for the Internet and seeking to affect search engine results, there are some new and simple rules to keep in mind:

  • Choose and use your keywords carefully. What are the most likely searched words for what you want visitors to find in your copy?
  • Use bold, italics, headlines and subheads to make key words and key phrases leap out. Emphasized text can positively affect search engine results.
  • Be careful with puns, innuendo and double meanings. Search engines do not have a sense of humor.
  • Write timely content that provides useful information for readers. Provide tips, advice or analysis in your posting. Search engines are more likely to pick those up.
  • Use hyperlinks and anchor text, but don’t overdo it. Too many links can red-flag your copy and get it kicked out of search engines (one line per 100 words is a good guideline).
  • Be consistent. Some words have multiple spellings (t-shirt and tee-shirt). Stick with one spelling.

Remember the admonition of Kahlil Gibran: “The obvious is that which is never seen until someone expresses it simply.”



Getting Employees to Talk About You

So, you’ve invested in a shiny new brand. Or, maybe, your latest ad campaign is getting ready to roll off the shelves. Do your employees know about it? And, more importantly, do they know how to talk about it with others?

These questions often get answered with a hesitant “no,” followed by a moment of panic, but don’t worry. There are two tools we use to empower your best ambassadors—employees—to speak consistently and powerfully about your company.

Message strategies
These are the guiding themes that help employees remember which factors to highlight when waxing poetic about your company. They demonstrate your key differentiators—operative word there being demonstrate.

Message strategies aren’t the nice succinct sound bites you hear (For that, see Talking Points below). Instead, they answer customers’ questions of “Why should I believe what you’re telling me? What proof do you have?” They identify HOW you will communicate the key points, but they don’t specify the exact messages or language.

For example, if your brand, positioning statement or ad claims you provide “compassionate, skilled professionals,” then two of your message strategies would be:

  1. Highlight the compassionate approach employees use during interactions with customers
  2.  Detail the schooling, certifications or skills-tests your employees are required to have.

Message strategies create powerful communications materials because they tell you what to DO to communicate your ideas to your customers. For example, if you want your customers to understand that you have compassionate, skilled professionals, then you need to follow both of the message strategies listed above.

You can use message strategies as a checklist for measuring the strength of your collateral materials. Ask yourself if a particular brochure or sales flier accomplishes each of the message strategies. If it does, the chances are that your customers will be able to more easily understand the messages you’re trying to get across.

Talking Points
Talking points are detailed statements that provide consistent, clear ways to talk about your business, and always tie directly back to the customer benefit. They also support individual message strategies. In the example above about “compassionate, skilled employees,” a sample talking point that fulfills message strategy #2 would be:

“Our customers have peace of mind knowing they’re in capable hands because all of our staff have attained the highest certification available in our industry. They also are required to complete 120 hours of continuing education each year.”

When we develop talking points, we carefully craft the most powerful language because this is what your employees will actually be saying and what your customers will actually be reading regarding your company. The talking points are a living document and likely will evolve over time as new research, data and stories are uncovered.

Since everyone is working off of the same talking points, your message will be clear and consistent no matter who is communicating it. Talking points also help in cross-selling because employees can speak about the values and benefits of an unfamiliar service line simply by knowing its talking points.

Talking points become the basis for developing collateral materials, including sell sheets, brochures, Web site, etc. They also become the sound bites that employees use during sales pitches. To make the talking points even stronger and more relevant, each employee can personalize them with their own perspective and stories.

Next time your company has an important message to get out, help your employees take the lead!