Whether you call a meeting to provide a project status update or onboard a new customer, your follow-up efforts determine how much you get out of your meeting time.
It’s follow-up that ensures action items are completed and projects are kept on track.
Of course, meeting follow-up can take many forms—an email, phone call, in-person meeting, or remote conference. And each form has a time and a place.
So, after detailing the importance of follow-up in different contexts, this post will outline follow-up best practices you can use to make your meetings even more impactful.
What is a follow-up meeting? (And why you should care)
A follow-up meeting is when two or more people come together at a scheduled time and place to make a decision, resolve a problem, or provide an update related to a previously held meeting.
All kinds of professionals benefit from follow-up meetings. They’re a useful tool for ensuring accountability, maintaining momentum, monitoring performance, building relationships, and more.
And, unless you’re conducting an exit interview or ending a project, you’ll need to follow up—in one form or another—after every meeting.
Sometimes your follow-up may be as simple as sending meeting notes to relevant team members or stakeholders who couldn’t attend the meeting. Other times you may want to send a quick thank you to a customer for their time.
At a minimum, follow-up helps you and the information exchanged at your meeting stay at the top of your audience’s mind. After all, even high-performing, self-starters are pulled in many different directions and need reminders to stay on track.
But the benefits of follow-up meetings don’t come without careful planning and management.
How to follow up: Email, or phone call...another meeting?
As with any meeting, it’s critical to ask yourself—before scheduling—whether a follow-up meeting is necessary, or if an email or phone call will suffice.
The best way to determine what format your follow-up should take is to consider the length and complexity of your message and the type of response required.
Ask yourself the following:
- Will you require input or decisions from multiple people?
- Do the decisions you’re asking respondents to make require nuanced answers?
- Can you communicate your message in 150 words or less?
If your message is longer than 150 words, requires multiple people’s input, or necessitates nuanced answers, an in-person follow-up meeting is best.
Otherwise, a phone call works if you only need to talk to one other person to complete the follow-up. And an email is appropriate when you can summarize your meeting follow-up in 150 words or less.
If you do need a follow-up meeting, make sure to carry forward action items from the original meeting to check on their status.
When to follow up: Updates, Action Items, and Reminders
This is so people who didn’t attend the meeting can have a sense of what happened. That way, you can keep your meeting attendee list small while still keeping everyone informed.
The meeting summary follow-up also reminds everyone (and provides a record) of who is supposed to do what.
In short, non-attendees get an update, action items are documented, and attendees get a reminder on what the meeting accomplished.
Another important goal of follow-up is to monitor progress. For example, a large project may require multiple checkpoints before it’s finished. In this case, continuous follow-up—via email or in-person—helps keep the project on track.
Remember: following up is rarely a one-time task, especially on projects that are just getting started. Be prepared to follow up consistently until the project gains enough momentum to sustain itself.
Following up on a meeting helps ensure time isn't wasted
When the OECD surveyed companies with 500 or more employees, respondents said 17 percent of their time was spent in meetings. That OECD survey also found that the most common barrier to productivity, according to 57 percent of respondents, was wasteful meetings.
But meetings aren’t inherently wasteful.
What is wasteful is poor planning and lack of meaningful meeting management. Thoughtful follow-up is one of many ways you can start making your meetings more meaningful.