Your schedule is packed with weekly marketing team meetings, meetings with project stakeholders, and meetings with vendors. That may be more meetings than you’d like, but all-in-all folks know their roles, and what needs to be accomplished. For most, these day-to-day meetings run pretty smoothly. But leadership meetings? That’s another beast altogether.
Meeting with senior executives requires some planning. Just finding a time when everyone is available can be mission impossible. Then, once you manage to get everyone in a room, time is precious and there are lots of agendas at play. Each player brings different perspectives and needs, and you have to be prepared for a curveball.
There are lots of resources out there about good meeting habits. One of my favorites is How to Design an Agenda for an Effective Meeting from the Harvard Business Review. There is not much advice specifically for marketing meetings which have a unique set of challenges. We speak a different language and think a bit differently than others on the leadership team. With the right approach though, these meetings are where you can really affect the course of business. Here are five tips to pave the way to meeting bliss:
Put marketing into context
Go in with an understanding of how marketing fits into business priorities. When working with a new client, I sometimes find it helpful to begin a meeting with leadership by going around the table and asking the question, “On a scale of one to ten, how important a role does marketing play in hitting business objectives?” If I hear a lot of fours and fives, I’ll focus the discussion on how marketing can maintain the status quo while other teams are focusing on other initiatives. More often than not though, there are lots of eights and nines. Once everyone at the table knows that this is critical, they are more likely to sit up and pay attention.
Report back regularly
Develop a marketing dashboard to use as a five minute review at weekly or monthly leadership meetings. Give the team a big picture view of what’s happening, reiterate goals for your current projects and tie the latest sales results to past marketing initiatives. Your dashboard should highlight key performance indicators and your team’s objectives. Use regular meetings as a time to educate the group on terms and methodology. This will help when you are looking for approval on your annual marketing plan down the road.
One-on-one meetings first
Put one-on-one meetings with colleagues on the senior leadership team in your schedule before meetings with the larger group. In some organizations, it’s easy for marketing to become isolated from other business activities. How can you better collaborate with the CFO, the head of sales and other key leaders? If you are proposing a new idea, use these meetings to build consensus and gather insights to make a stronger pitch.
Keep the agenda tight
Explaining methodology, sharing data, and making decisions in one meeting isn’t going to happen. By allowing time for discussion you can avoid feeling like the meeting was a bust because important items were never addressed. What? You think I’m living in a fantasy world because deadlines are looming, executive meetings are difficult to schedule and you’ve got no choice? If that’s the issue, schedule those one-on-one meetings pronto. Also consider whittling down the list of meeting participants to those that are really critical to the discussion.
Bring ideas to life.
We marketers have a knack for seeing a rough outline or sketch and envisioning the final execution. Other executives may find that more difficult and push back on new a approach before giving it a chance. It’s human nature to feel uneasy when we can’t fully understand an idea. Taking the creative a little further to illustrate an idea or including a vendor’s case study to show proof of concept can often help avoid that “we don’t get it” awkward silence.
And it goes without saying, don’t forget your tried and true meeting facilitation techniques. Determine the objectives and agenda before going in, and share it with the team right at the start. Set the tone and expectations of the meeting up front too. What you are looking for from the group? What hats should they wear? What are the ground rules? If you’re the creative one on the team, use it to your advantage. Make this meeting different than the last one they were in, and good looking PowerPoint never hurts.