How to win a strategy meeting

Congratulations! You’ve been invited to a strategy meeting. Now what?

Unlike many other types of meetings, strategy meetings are highly interactive and outcome-focused.

The decisions made during strategic planning sessions will directly affect the company, its bottom line, its clients and its employees.

With so much on the line, it’s no surprise that strategy sessions can get stressful. Here are some tips from the pros on how to get your points across.

Get back to basics

“I prefer strategy meetings to be low-tech, with plenty of sketchpads and Sharpies.

A strategy meeting has to allow for interaction and the interpretation of other people’s ideas. A PowerPoint is just people sitting in the dark being talked at.

It doesn’t allow for the free exchange of thoughts,” said Kristen Adamo, the President, and CEO of the Providence Warwick Convention and Visitors Bureau, which is responsible for promoting all aspects of the cities of Providence and Warwick, Rhode Island.

Eschewing flash and high tech also helps prevent a hive mind.

While creating workable strategies requires cooperation, it also requires a lot of critical analysis and group input.

“The biggest pitfall of a strategy meeting is when people fall in love with a particular idea. The idea itself may be great but may not fit with the rest of the strategy,” Adamo added. She advises creating a foundational idea and then letting the group build on that or augment it.

“The strategy is usually stronger, and because it’s developed collectively, there is more buy-in from the group.”

Cut the Fat

In a world where so many meetings could just as easily have been emails, people have learned to tolerate derailment.

Successful strategy meetings can’t veer off course. They require lots of advanced planning and excellent time management.

“Make meetings short and decisive. Too many meetings end 20 minutes before people leave the room,” said Patrick Hanlon CEO of Thinktopia and author of  Primal Branding.

“Determine desired outcomes before the meeting. What does success look like?

Imagine you’re writing an article about this win five years from now. What’s the headline? How did you get there? You probably just figured out your strategy,” he noted.

Do your homework

Technically, the strategy meeting starts well before the actual meeting takes place. Everyone should arrive with a full understanding of the issues and some potential solutions.

“Make sure your team gets any materials and data that will be discussed in advance of the meeting. When everyone has reviewed ahead of time, the meeting time can be spent brainstorming solutions,” said Heather Monahan, former C-Suite executive, founder of Boss in Heels and author of Confidence Creator.

“Things can go wrong when expectations are not set prior to the meeting. In order for the meeting to be successful, everyone should have an idea of what success looks like. Get clear on the outcomes you’re striving for, agree to make decisions in the room, and commit to following up,” she added.

“You have to go into a strategy meeting prepared,” agreed Adamo. “I usually have some ideas about how I think we should plot the course and I always research issues, mitigating factors, etc.

Too much time can be wasted on exposition when you really need to get to the meat of the plan.”

“Ask everyone some great questions ahead of time,” said Susie Carder, professional business coach and author of Power Your Profits. “What worked in 2019? What can we improve upon in 2020?”

Be Both Innovative and Collaborative

You were invited to the strategy meeting because your input is valuable – but if you don’t contribute, executives agree that you probably won’t be invited back.

Strategy sessions are a great chance to show off your management skills since they require a delicate balance of innovation and collaboration.

“A big win in a strategy meeting is to get people involved and get their voices heard. One idea can change the course of an organization,” said Carder, who also recommends incorporating a team-building element into strategy meetings.

“The biggest pitfall is having the leader lead the meeting versus engaging the team in creating solutions,” she noted.

Patrick Hanlon agrees.

“Nobody wins unless everybody wins. Make meetings as collaborative as possible. Make sure everyone gets an opportunity to voice their perspective. If they can’t, don’t invite them to the next meeting,” he said.