Mar 292007

As a freelance commercial writer I work with clients all over Ireland, and indeed around the globe, without ever meeting them face to face. Modern communications technology makes it possible for me to to do all the research I need, and to communicate with my clients efficiently and effectively without ever leaving my office.

So the question is are meetings really necessary? And from my experience the short answer to that is no.

In the business world an inordinate amount of time and money is wasted travelling to and attending unnecessary meetings. But here’s the thing… in Ireland most people are used to operating within a business culture where meetings are de rigueur. Completing a project with somebody without meeting face-to-face requires a paradigm shift, and some people are uncomfortable with that.

The bottom line is that for independent contractors providing a service meetings will be necessary as long as clients deem them necessary… but before deciding to meet consider the following:

  • What is the objective of the meeting — what do all of the stakeholders want out of it?
  • How much time and resources will be tied up in the meeting (think about all of the people who will be attending, and ask yourselves if a meeting really represents the most effective investment of their time)?
  • Could the objectives of the meeting be more efficiently met through other forms of communication?

If a meeting really is necessary try and make it as effective as possible by:

  • Having a clearly defined agenda before the meeting starts… and sticking to it.
  • Keeping it brief.
  • Limit the number of attendees at the meeting — the more people involved the less effective the decision-making process tends to be.
  • Agree clear actions based on the points covered in the meeting and confirm them later by e-mail.
  • Suggest potential alternative for the future… like conference calling, web conferencing, e-mail, instant messaging, etc..

The truth is that in most cases the time you spend in meetings could be used more effectively, allowing you to deliver more value to your clients. The trick, of course, is trying to convince your clients of that fact!

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