I was attending a Client strategy meeting last week when my Client leaned over to me as said, “Welcome to the $15,000 meeting!” I was taken aback for a moment until she told me that she added up the hourly rates of all the participants and determined that the bill for the meeting, that hadn’t even started yet, would be about $15,000 – and that was just for the external partners. After that comment, I certainly felt the pressure to make the meeting a success.
Despite the fact that ROF does project work for a fixed fee, we are very discriminant about the number of attendees that we bring to meetings. This philosophy goes back to my first boss who told me that I would get a mulligan for the first meeting, but after that if I didn’t say anything of value at the meeting (i.e., contribute to the meeting) . . . I wasn’t coming back! While it may sound a little ruthless, it underscores the point that meeting attendance, especially at strategy meetings, should be driven by value provided. It doesn’t necessarily have to come from the verbal sparing at the meeting like my first boss envisioned. Valuable meeting participation can be demonstrated in any of three distinct, yet overlapping ways:
- Preparation – development of the meeting materials puts a potential attendee in a prime position to ensure an efficient and productive meeting, given the pre-meeting familiarity with the key strategic questions and the subject matter to be discussed
- Participation – thoughtful contribution during the meeting is the quickest way to demonstrate value and to show the Client, not only why you were invited, but also why your future attendance should be mandatory
- Elevation – capturing the discussion within a succinct output document or, better yet, elevating the discussion and decisions to clear marketing application demonstrates the utility of the attendee’s role after the fact
Although my Client didn’t openly express her sentiment to the group about the high cost of the meeting . . . maybe she should have. I’m guessing the output would have been more successful if she had communicated her expectations for participation based on the pure cost of the meeting.
And maybe, in the end, the active participation of the attendees would have made $15,000 seem like a reasonable cost when compared to the value she received.