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

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13 min read

meeting debriefs

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 time 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 afterward, you’d probably think, “If she remembered my grandmother’s health, she must really care about me.”

Now, fast-forward a couple of 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 will probably 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: Meeting Debriefs.

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Before we get started, did you know we’re launching our inaugural book, Radical Delegation, this spring, 2024? 

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Just two minutes of your time could open up thousands of hours each year. Sound like a fair trade? 

If you’re interested, join our launch team and get your free copy now.

We have a whole section of the book dedicated to Meeting Debriefs. But if all you’re looking for is a high-level summary, then great – this blog post is a great jumping-off point. 

Of course, if you’re really looking to learn this tactic and be the one person in someone’s network who delivers on all their commitments without creating any extra work for yourself … 

If you want to be someone who delivers amazing experiences and remains top of mind for breakthrough opportunities … 

Then, we highly encourage you to join the launch team, and feel free to jump straight to our chapter on Meeting Debriefs. 

The Secret to Supernatural Memory

In our previous example, Erin made such an impact because she remembered something 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 important to other people rather than just information important to you.

You’ll likely 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 that Mary has had severe asthma and that this condition has created 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, you’ll probably forget it if you don’t have a system to capture 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 suffers from asthma.
  • After three months, you probably only remember 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 months, all you can ask is, “How are you, John?” Or maybe, “How are the kids?”

But what you could 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 your 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 others 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 more straightforward: Meeting Debriefs are a manifest of all the key takeaways learned and commitments made throughout a meeting.

Broadly speaking, Meeting Debriefs are 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, this section of Meeting Debriefs is all about commitments that require action on either party’s part. Think of tasks, to-do lists, or next steps for anything involved.

By capturing these in your Meeting Debriefs 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 are a couple of 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

Professional challenges are 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 are 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 web hosting and actively seeks better alternatives.

Keep in mind: You don’t need to have a solution ready immediately. But by engaging in Meeting Debriefs, you can explore different options later by ensuring you capture professional challenges when they occur.

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 go 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 shares that interest, we feel a strong and almost immediate connection. Here are 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 solid foundation for the relationship.

About/Facts

Think of this section of Meeting Debriefs 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 he worked in Quality Assurance at Salesforce before founding his startup.
  • Misty shared that she and her husband celebrated their 7-year anniversary on June 14th.

How to Create Effective Meeting Debriefs

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

Tip #1: Debrief Every Meeting

When establishing a new habit, consistency is key. That’s why, at least at first, we recommend having Meeting Debriefs after every meeting, no matter how small or 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 that Meeting Debriefs is something you do as soon as you leave the room.

Plus, it trains your mind to constantly seek this information in the meeting instead of remembering it after the fact.

Tip #2: Follow a Formula

To make your Meeting Debriefs easy to review in the future, we 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 of Meeting Debriefs makes it incredibly easy to reference in the future and find exactly what you need. Speaking of which, we 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 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 Meeting 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 nine 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 Meeting Debriefs.

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

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.

Unleash Your Leverage Superpower With Radical Delegation 

If you like this idea and want to learn how to incorporate it into your daily routine and get the most out of this practice, be sure to join the Radical Delegation launch team

Radical Delegation has an entire chapter dedicated to Meeting Debriefs – and we’re thrilled to invite you to get a free advance copy of the book here.   

Written by Mindmaven Founder and CEO Patrick Ewers – named by Forbes as one of Silicon Valley’s top relationship management experts – Radical Delegation is our most powerful content yet. 

Why is this a must-read for every leader? Radical Delegation will teach you how to:  

Free up 12+ hours every week by delegating anything that doesn’t specifically need to be done by you.

Maximize your productivity and efficiency by implementing new processes and workflows.

Reduce your mental load so you have the clarity and decisiveness to be the leader you want to be.

Follow through on 100% of your commitments because your Executive Assistant tracks them or proactively completes them for you.

Deliver great experiences to those around you at scale, enabling you to unleash the full power of your team and your network.

Radical Delegation is the blueprint implemented by execs at Sequoia Capital, A16z, Facebook, Reddit, Roblox, and 100+ other companies around the world. 

And now, for a limited time, you can join our launch team and get your free copy of Radical Delegation and lots more exclusive benefits. 

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