As a virtual assistant, I try to avoid face2face meetings as much as possible – invariably they take longer than planned, it usually involves travel and the inevitable hold ups and delays. They don’t always produce great results either – I’ll often have to sit down back at the office and compile an action list based on what we discussed, then have to ask follow up questions of the client, playing phone tag and causing more delay on getting the work done.
Being late is one of my personal bugbears – it always strikes me as being rude because essentially what you are saying is “My time is more important than your time, so I’ll keep you waiting”. For years in the music industry I endured this stupid ego trip game of keeping people waiting in reception… No more!
I know a couple of small business owners who are perennially late for meetings – because they’ve packed 5 into one day. Whilst I value the face-to-face benefits of meetings, I’d question whether they are all necessary. Wouldn’t we all get more done if we cut out the travel time and increased the effectiveness of meetings?
So here’s my meeting avoidance tactics:
- Invariably someone will request a meeting, I’ll agree to it but explain that the time is chargeable. The minute you implement this one change, meetings become a) less necessary and b) more effective. My time is money, therefore I charge for it.
- Alternatively I offer them a free phone consultation – we book it in the diary. Telephone meetings have several advantages over face2face meetings. They cut out travel time, they still have the formality of allocating diary space to discuss a subject properly, and you have your tools to hand to reference diaries/online resources/files thus eliminating extra follow up work. If the meeting gets cancelled or rescheduled, then I’m not facing downtime whilst it gets sorted out, I can go straight back to work.
- If a meeting is necessary, I will draw up a proper agenda and send it to them along with a list of the resources I think I will need. E.g. if it’s a meeting to discuss marketing widgets, I’ll ask them for previous widget marketing plans to be sent over before the meeting so I can review them beforehand. The agenda also helps keep everyone on schedule and can sometimes even eliminate the need for the meeting itself as people crack on with preparation before the meeting and have everything to hand so a decision can be made.
So – how long would you wait for a delayed meeting? Until the allocated end time? 20 minutes? Perhaps it depends on the importance of the person you are meeting?
Do you try and convert people into working virtually? If you do one face-to-face meeting, does that set a precedent and will you be dragging yourself over there forevermore? Should VAs have soft skills and tools to make virtual meetings as effective as face2face meetings, or is that impossible?