Meeting debriefs: 1 Simple Tactic to Supercharge Your Meetings and Deepen Your Relationships

Imagine this: You’re meeting with Erin, an up-and-coming startup CEO whom you haven’t talked with in six months. You walk into the room, shake hands, and the first thing she says is, “Hey, last we talked you mentioned that your grandmother wasn’t doing so well. How is she now?”

How would that simple question make you feel? Your first response would probably be a thought like, “Wow, she has incredible memory!” But afterwards, you’d probably think something like, “If she remembered my grandmother’s health, she must really care about me.”

Now, fast-forward a couple weeks. You meet a venture capitalist actively looking to expand their portfolio. You might have a network of 500 startup CEOs you could recommend, but who’s the first person that’s probably going to come to mind?

Likely Erin, who just a few weeks prior made you feel valued, cared for, and important. Because of that simple interaction—that simple question—you introduce Erin and the investor and they end up striking a deal and delivering massive value to both sides.

If Erin hadn’t made such a strong impression by asking about your grandmother, who knows if she would have been top-of-mind when the opportunity arose.

Now, here’s the question: What if you could deliver experiences like that to practically everyone in your network, almost every time? What kind of an impact would that have on your relationships? Your network? Your business?

The effect could be huge. We’re going to talk about how you can do just that by leveraging the power of one simple concept: The Meeting Debrief.

The Secret to Supernatural Memory

In the example above, Erin made such an impact because she remembered something that was important to you; something completely unrelated to her agenda.

So if you want to strengthen your relationships, that’s where it starts: You have to remember information that’s important to other people, rather than just information that’s important to you.

And you probably uncover information like this in almost every meeting you have. The problem is, most of it isn’t immediately relevant and winds up forgotten. For example, let’s say you just walked out of a meeting with John and learned the following information:

  • He has two daughters: Mary, age 3, and Catherine, age 5.
  • He says Mary looks like her mother while Catherine looks more like him.
  • He mentions Mary has been suffering from severe asthma and that this condition has been creating a lot of stress and anxiety in his family.
  • Finally, you learned that they just celebrated Mary’s birthday on March 22

These are simple pieces of information you might come across in any conversation. And although you might genuinely enjoy learning this, if you don’t have a system in place to capture it, you’re probably going to forget it. It’ll probably go something like this:

  • After a day, you’ll remember all the facts.
  • After a week, you’ll likely have forgotten the date of Mary’s birthday.
  • After a month, you’ll likely have forgotten the names of his kids and who looks like which parent. However, you may still remember that one of them is suffering from asthma.
  • After three months, you probably only remember the rudimentary information, such as the fact that he has kids.
  • After six months, you may not even be 100% sure about that.

So if you meet him in six month’s time, all you’ll be able to ask is, “How are you, John?” Or maybe, “How are the kids?”

But what you could—and should—be asking is, “Hey John, how are Mary and Catherine? Any new developments on Mary’s asthma?”

Imagine the impact that simple question would have on yours and John’s relationship. These questions are so powerful because they deliver meaningful, personalized relationship experiences that make each person feel individually valued; and few things in life are more powerful than showing you care.

So what do you do about this? How do you overcome the tendency to forget important personal information about other people as time passes? The best solution we’ve found is by leveraging the power of Meeting Debriefs.

What Are Meeting Debriefs?

The concept couldn’t be simpler: A Meeting Debrief is simply a manifest of all the key takeaways learned and commitments made over the course of a meeting.

Broadly speaking, a Meeting Debrief is composed of four primary sections:

  • Action Items,
  • Professional Challenges,
  • Personal Interests & Passions, and
  • About/Facts

Let’s take a closer look at each of the four sections.

Action Items

As their name implies, these are any and all commitments made that require action on either party’s part. Think tasks, to do lists, or next steps for anything involved.

By capturing these and ensuring your promises never fall through the cracks, you can earn a reputation as someone who always follows through. This builds massive trust in your network, and trust is the foundation of success.

After all: The ones who experience the most success are most often those who have proven themselves most trustworthy. By capturing any commitments you make and any commitments made to you, you can turn your good intentions into good actions.

Here’s a couple examples of Action Items:

  • I committed to sending Erin that article I read about growing up with asthma.
  • John committed to introducing me to Mike Jones of Rapple.
  • Mike and I agreed to meet up again at the end of the quarter.

Professional Challenges

These are any and all career-related hurdles the other person mentions to you.

By understanding someone’s professional challenges, you can leverage the vast knowledge and resources within your network to try and help them overcome that challenge.

For example: If you learned Mike was dissatisfied with his startup’s current accounting firm and you knew of another, you could offer to make an introduction.

Here’s a few more examples of professional challenges:

  • Erin shared that she’s struggling to find the right engineering candidate for their team.
  • John shared that he’s considering transitioning from startup CEO to venture capitalist and is trying to connect with others who have done the same.
  • Sarah shared that she feels frustrated with their current web hosting and is actively looking for better alternatives.

Keep in mind: You don’t need to have a solution ready in-the-moment. But by making sure you capture professional challenges when they occur, you can explore different options later.

Personal Interests & Passions

These pretty much speak for themselves: Personal interests and passions are the things people enjoy talking about most. Have you ever noticed how the energy and enthusiasm in a room goes through the roof when you talk about something you care deeply about? Or when someone talks about something they’re passionate about?

We all have hobbies and interests, and when we find someone who seems to share that interest, we feel a strong and almost-immediate connection. Here’s a few examples:

  • Rob shared that he enjoys kiteboarding on the weekends.
  • Mary shared that she enjoys RV trips with her husband over the summer.
  • Ben shared that he loves finding new places around the Bay Area to take his family for picnics.

Finding common ground with someone causes us to think, “I am like you.” But our brain translates that thought to, “I like you;” immediately laying a strong foundation for the relationship.

About/Facts

Think of this section as a collection of information about someone’s life. Basically any other fact mentioned during a meeting that doesn’t fit into one of the three above categories is likely to fit into the About/Facts section, such as: Where someone grew up, their work history, their family situation, their age, or any important dates.

Let’s look at a few examples:

  • Kara shared that she has three kids: Shawn (9), Kylie (5), and Josh (2).
  • Steve shared that prior to founding his startup, he worked in Quality Assurance at Salesforce.
  • Misty shared that she and her husband celebrated their 7-year anniversary on June 14th.

How to Create Meeting Debriefs

Now that we’ve covered what exactly Meeting Debriefs are, let’s talk about how to utilize them. Here’s a few quick tips.

Tip #1: Debrief Every Meeting

When establishing a new habit, consistency is key. That’s why, at least at first, I recommend debriefing every meeting you have; no matter how small, and no matter who you meet with.

If you leave a meeting and there’s nothing to debrief, still make a note. Just write down, “Nothing to debrief.” This will continue to train your mind to debrief meetings as soon as you walk out of the room.

Plus, it trains your mind to constantly seek this information in the meeting as opposed to trying to remember it after-the-fact.

Tip #2: Follow a Formula

In order to make your meeting debriefs easy to review in the future, I recommend following some sort of formula. If you’re doing written debriefs, it can be as simple as a bullet-point list. For example:

Action Items:

  • I committed to sending Sam our pitch deck for review.
  • Sam committed to introducing me to his co-founder, Rob.

Professional Challenges:

  • Sam shared that the sudden growth of his startup has made it difficult to find a work/life balance.

Personal Interests & Passions:

  • Sam shared he’s recently gotten really into yoga and meditation.

About/Facts:

  • Sam shared that he celebrated his 32nd birthday on October 23

This formula makes it incredibly easy to reference in the future and find exactly what you need. Speaking of which, I recommend saving this information somewhere secure and easy-to-reference. If you use a contact management solution like Contactually or FullContact, just add it to the contact’s profile.

Tip #3: Dictate Your Debrief

Finding the time to sit down and write out a debrief after a meeting can be difficult, especially if you’ve got a day full of back-to-back meetings (by the way, here’s how to avoid that).

If you feel like you won’t have time to type it into your phone or computer, no problem: Consider dictating your debriefs instead. Simply use your phone to record a verbal debrief. Here’s what it might sound like:

Today, on November 21st, I met with John Smith from Rapple. I learned that John has two daughters: Mary, age 3, and Catherine, age 5. He’s been married to his wife Erin for 9 years. He and his wife enjoy finding new areas to hike in.

I committed to sending John that article I read about some of the best hidden hiking locations in the Bay Area, and we agreed to meet again next month, after he’s had a chance to talk with his board about moving forward.

You could dictate that entire thing in 30 seconds or less; you could even do it on the way to your next meeting. Then, once you have time at the end of the day, you can sit down and process your debriefs.

Or even better: If you work with an assistant, have them use your debriefs to automatically update contact profiles.

Meeting Debriefs in Action

And that’s Meeting Debriefs in a nutshell. Although they’re an incredibly simple concept, their ROI can be huge.

So here’s my challenge to you: Open up your calendar and find your next meeting, then commit in advance to debriefing it. If you need to, skim this article beforehand.

Then go in and proactively seek out action items, professional challenges, personal interests, and interesting information about the other person. Then, once you leave the room, capture that information immediately.

Next time you meet with them, leverage some of the information you learned. Ask about their spouse by name, or share something you learned about one of their passions. I think you’ll be surprised by the positive effect it’ll have on your relationship.

2019-02-07T16:53:03+00:00

About the Author:

Patrick Ewers is the founder and CEO of Mindmaven, an executive coaching firm and educational platform focused on helping startup CEOs, executives and their team members achieve their fullest potential and generate game-changing opportunities by better leveraging the most valuable relationships in their network.