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7 Ways to Make Your Next Meeting More Strategic

4 min read
Mar 16, 2021

From quick stand-ups that provide operational updates to full-day retreats for planning major initiatives, there’s no shortage of meetings in today’s world. Our days are packed with gatherings and video conferences designed to accomplish some goal or other.  

The problem is that a lot of these meetings waste time and don’t serve a strategic purpose. Don’t let the meetings you organize fall into this trap. Investing a few more minutes into your meeting prep can help you host meetings that are laser-focused on accomplishing your goals.  

Read on for seven ways to make your next meeting more strategic.   

Pivot! How to Build a Strategic Plan that Evolves With Your Financial Institution


1. Set a SMART objective. What’s the goal of your meeting? Do you want to assess performance, develop a strategy, make a decision, or draft a plan to execute?  

Setting an objective makes the purpose of the meeting clear to participants and helps set an agenda that will aid in accomplishing that goal. The trick is setting a SMART objective, one that is:  

Specific - Clearly defined  

Measurable – Progress can be tracked and measured  

Achievable – A realistic goal  

Relevant – Aligned to the goals of your organization  

Timely – Includes a timeline with beginning and endpoints   

Don’t just say you’re going to have a meeting on internal controls. Provide as much detail as possible. For instance, your meeting might be focused on assessing whether the institution needs stronger fair lending controls in the mortgage lending area.  

2. Invite the right people. Meetings get a bad reputation because they are often filled with people who don’t belong there—or have forgotten to include a major stakeholder. This wastes time and is bad for morale.  

When planning a meeting, take the time to really think about who needs to be there. This may be different from who wants to be there or who is usually there. Be sure to think outside your own department to include individuals from other areas with expertise and insights that will really contribute to meeting the objective or who may be impacted by your initiative.   

Everyone talks about eliminating silos—be the person who actually does it.  
For example, if the issue is vendor management, it may be helpful to have someone from IT there. But once again, be strategic in who you choose. You don’t want to waste anyone’s time. 

3. Gather key data and reports. Once you have a purpose for the meeting, it’s important to gather data that can help inform how you reach your objective. Choose quality over quantity, focusing on data that highlights the most important issues.  

Build a strategic plan that evolves with your financial institution 

For instance, if you’re discussing your financial institution’s risk profile, collect data that demonstrates any significant changes in the institution’s risk exposure. If a new regulation has dramatically increased compliance riskthat’s a worthwhile data point. If there is consistently low risk of mortgage fraud, that’s not news, and therefore doesn’t need to be highlighted.  

Reports should be short and focused, highlighting new or critical information. You’ll save a lot of time on meeting preparation if data is stored in a centralized location and it’s easy to update it in real-time and generate reports. It makes it possible for meeting participants to benefit from the most recent data. 

4. Share the agenda, reports, and key data ahead of time. If you want participants to bring their best ideas to a meeting, it helps if they have time to prepare. Create an agenda focused on your SMART objective and publish the agenda and any relevant data and reports to your company intranet or board portal a few days before the meeting  

When choosing data, ask yourself: What is this data telling me? What does it say about whether or not what we are doing is accomplishing our goals?  Is this data useful? Might other data be more useful?  

Make sure participants know that you’ll be diving right into the topic and that they’ll be at a disadvantage if they don’t take the time to review the documents. 

5. Have someone take notes. Meetings can be a source of great ideas that go nowhere. How many times have you seen a brilliant idea come out of brainstorming only to be forgotten later? It’s a waste of time and potential.

Make sure someone is responsible for taking meeting notes and publishing them on your intranet. If it’s an actionable idea, make sure you create a task for it. For example, if someone mentions an area of business continuity that requires testing, you can add it to your testing schedule in a solution like Nverify.  

6. Use your agenda/objective to keep participants on task. It’s easy for meeting to devolve into side discussions that aren’t directly related to the meeting’s purpose. If the meeting starts getting sidetracked, acknowledge the value of your colleague’s ideas and then politely table that conversation for another time. 

For example, if you’re deciding what capabilities will be required of a core vendor to support your institution’s strategic goals and someone brings up their thoughts on a new bill pay vendor, remind participants that you are focused on the core vendor right now, ask the note-taker to record the comments, and suggest the relevant people circle back to the topic another time.  

It also helps that leadership stays focused and present. If they are straying off topic—or checked out on their phone—it sends the message that the objective isn’t important. 

7. Follow up on the meeting. Once the meeting is over, provide a recap with food for thought and action items—linking to meeting notes on the intranet for anyone who needs them. Bullet points are better than long narratives. 

Have a process for assigning and tracking tasks, if needed. 

Want to learn how to make the most of meetings from the participant side? View our on-demand webinar How to Address Risk, Compliance, and Audit Issues with the Board 

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