Master the Art of Productive Client Meetings
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Master the Art of Productive Client Meetings

Jacob Thomas Jacob Thomas Last Updated:
Illustration of people in a meeting talking about time tracking

Looking to host more productive client meetings? You’ve come to the right place, my friend!

As a freelancer, consultant, or agency owner; you’re no stranger to the constant struggle to maintain successful and profitable client relationships. They need to feel taken care of and understood. You need to bring home the bacon. We totally get it.

If you constantly find yourself wondering:

“Wait, client A wanted what changed?”

Or you spend too much time during your weekly catch up calls thinking:

“How much longer is this going to take?”

We’ve got you covered. This blog will explain, in glorious detail, how to master the art of productive client meetings. Let’s get to it.

What Makes for a Great Meeting?

Ready to up the productivity of your next client meeting?

One word: goals. That’s right, meetings that prove productive are always goal oriented.

So before you do anything; contact your client or schedule a time and date, make sure you’ve clearly defined exactly what it is you’re hoping to achieve.

If you don’t, your meeting is sure to be less efficient.

But wait, there’s more!

Once the goal of your client meeting has been established, it needs to be told to and understood by everyone who will be participating. It also needs to be repeated at the beginning of the meeting so everyone is reminded of the specific purpose and no time is wasted.

Sound good?

Cool, let’s dive into a few specific steps you need to take to master the art of productive client meetings.

5 Steps to Have a Productive Client Meeting

You’ve got a goal for your next meeting — whether it was chosen by you or the client is irrelevant as long as you do, in fact, actually have a well-defined purpose.

What’s next? Read on for complete client meeting enlightenment:

1: Pre-Meeting Prep

Showing up to your next client meeting unprepared is a disaster waiting to happen. Like the time I dragged my paper white soul case to the beach but forgot the sunscreen kind of disaster. In either case, we both get burned.

So do yourself a favor and do your due diligence before you hop on the phone or walk into your client’s office to discuss progress and issues. Some things to work on:

  • Create an Agenda: Beyond just having a goal for your meeting, you also should have a well-defined agenda. What will you talk about? How long will the meeting last? Answer these questions and forever reap the rewards of efficient and productive client meetings, my young padawan.
  • Define Meeting Length: By not defining a meeting length beforehand, you’re opening yourself up to long, rambling pow wows that end up diminishing any potential impact you hoped to have. Ain’t nobody got time for that. So set a time length and stick to it.
  • Research, Research, Research: What’s the goal of your meeting? Great, now how much do you know about that topic? If you’re simply sharing your progress on certain initiatives you’ve been working on for the client, be specific:

“Yes, Mr. Client, the analytics are telling us that our latest ebook has increased email list signups by 6% so far.”

If you plan to talk about the competing companies in your client’s industry, make sure you take time to investigate the competition beforehand and brainstorm ways you can one up them.

2: Past, Present, Future

The “past, present, future” meeting structure is well known, well used, and well loved. Never heard of it? Wow, you’re learning all kinds of stuff today! Let’s break it down.

Start with the past: what have you already accomplished for your client?

Sharing these details helps the client because it confirms their good judgment in hiring you, and it helps you because it confirms your client’s good judgment in hiring you. And then they’ll hire you again!

Next, move on to the present: what killer projects do you currently have underway?

Keep your client abreast of your progress, let them know if you need anything from them, and assure them that you’ll definitely be able to meet any pre-agreed-upon due dates and deadlines.

Finally, look to the future: how can you blow your client’s mind with images of coming success?

This is where you’ll be able to create excitement around your freelance business or agency and keep your client wanting, nay needing, to keep working with you.

Just don’t be a dummy and promise things you can’t actually deliver on! But do feel free to make a future working relationship with you seem awesome and successful.

3: FYI, Q&A is OK

By now you’ve got goals, you’ve done your pre-meeting prep and created an agenda to follow, you’ve even researched the crap out of your meeting’s oh-so-important topic. Don’t forget to leave time for questions!

Your client is sure to have a few things they’ll want to clear up or get more information on. Give them whatever they need.

Even if it takes a couple minutes longer to answer questions (I know you literally just addressed his exact concern in the “future” section of your meeting, but still…), it’s always better to be on the same page and avoid miscommunications.

4: Track Your Time

What, you’re not tracking the time you spend in client meetings? You fool!

I kid, I kid. But still, you really need to be tracking your meetings. Even if you charge by the project rather than by the hour.

It will help you become more efficient because you’ll be able to see where your meetings begin to drag and waste time, and more profitable because you’ll have the necessary knowledge to run shorter, more productive meetings and bill your clients appropriately.

The best way to easily and accurately track the time you spend in meetings is to use a tool like Toggl. The mobile app version is quickly turned on and off with one click and can even be used during your call!

The information the app collects can then be analyzed and optimized for greater success in the future. Speaking of optimization…

5: Optimize the Process

Just like any other business practice, in order to consistently host productive client meetings, you’ll need to optimize your approach.

By using the data you’ve collected in your time tracking app, as well as making simple observations during your actual meetings, you’ll be able to assess what works well and what doesn’t. Adjust accordingly.

Other Things to Keep in Mind

Boom! There’s your five step process for mastering the art of productive client meetings. Not so bad, right?

But you know what? I’m feeling generous today. Let’s dish on a few other things to keep in mind. Add the following tactics to what we’ve already covered and you’ll become an awe-inspiring, client meeting ninja in no time!

It’s Not About You

I hate to break it to you, princess, but it’s all about the client, not you and your ultra magnificent skills and accomplishments.

You can do amazing things. We get it. We’re impressed. But your clients care about themselves and the problems they hired you to solve.

So learn to listen. Be the help they need. Provide solutions when appropriate. Just never make client meetings about you and your freelance business or agency.

Invite Carefully

One of the most surefire ways to NOT host a successful and productive client meeting is to invite a score of people who don’t need to be there.

Talking about marketing? The head of HR probably can’t add a lot to the conversation. Just sayin’.

So be wise with who you (or your client) asks to join. It might be beneficial, and even essential, to explain this to your clientele. Simply let them know that the fewer people in a meeting, the more chance it has of staying on point, on time, and productive.

Now, let’s make a pact and say it all together:

“I promise, on pain of death should I break this holy vow, to only invite to my client meetings those who actually need to be there.”

Good, now let’s seal it in blood… Too much? Ok, moving on.

I Can’t Even Right Now

For the vast majority of people, the mornings prove to be the most productive time of day. It’s also when we’re generally able to do our best and most creative work. It’s not the time for client meetings if you can avoid them.

Instead, plan your huddle-ups for the afternoons. If you happen to have multiple meetings scheduled for the same day, try to plan them back to back.

This will keep you in a similar headspace for the entire time. Just be sure to schedule a little leeway in between each get together!

Summarize and Capitalize

Do you want to really impress your clients and prove your immense value to their organizations? Take notes during your meetings and send succinct summaries to everyone involved afterwards.

Not only will this show your clients that you care about your work and will do your best for their companies, but you’ll also ensure that everyone remains on the same page.

There won’t be any confusion as to who’s doing what and when it should be delivered because both parties will have a written document of everything discussed in the meeting.

For the best summary framework, follow this structure:

  • Thank You: Thank your client for their time.
  • Key Points: Quickly reiterate the main takeaways of the meeting. Bullet points are preferred as they’re easy to read and digest.
  • Action Items: Redefine who will be in charge of completing which tasks. Everyone should know exactly what’s expected of them and the specific initiatives they are responsible for.

In Conclusion

Congratulations; you now have the tools to master the art of productive client meetings! The world is yours for the taking.

Just remember that every meeting needs a goal. So start there.

Then use the five step process we outlined in this post and take your pre-meeting prep seriously, use the “past, present, future” framework, schedule in a few minutes to answer questions, track your time with a crazy cool app like Toggl, and work to optimize your meeting process.

And if you really want to become a meeting extraordinaire, make each huddle up with your clients about them and their needs, only invite the people who actually need to be there, schedule meetings for the afternoons whenever possible, and send out post-meeting summaries.

Easy peasy, but VERY powerful stuff.

So how about it?

What have you done in the past to ensure productive client meetings for your freelance business or agency?

Any tips, tricks, or pieces of advice that we missed?

Let us know in the comments!

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