How C-suite leadership can effectively conduct external stakeholder meetings

Preparation is key as external stakeholders – community groups, investors, government and reporters – hang on every word uttered by an executive team.

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While C-suite leadership is often comfortable conducting meetings or sending announcements to its internal stakeholders, meeting with the company’s external stakeholders is often an entirely different matter. The company’s stockholders, the local government, customers and other community groups all bring different priorities and challenges that will directly impact your business.

Because you don’t work directly with external stakeholders, it can be more difficult to understand how a particular course of action will impact their interests. But by taking steps to maximize the effectiveness of these meetings, you can have greater confidence that your actions will lead to mutually beneficial outcomes.

The following are a few ways that C-suite leadership can ensure that their external stakeholder meetings run smoothly so they can accomplish their business goals:

Preparation is power

Preparation is key to any meeting with external stakeholders, regardless of whether the leadership team is making a pitch to a potential client or addressing stockholders following major events that will impact the business’s profitability.

When preparing presentations for these meetings, the gathering of both internal and external data will make a significant difference leadership’s ability to address stakeholder questions and concerns.

Understanding the ins and outs of a yearly financial report is good, but the presentation will be much more effective when C-suite leadership is already aware of stakeholders’ attitudes prior to the meeting. These extra insights will help leadership better frame the information in a way that will appeal to the stakeholders involved.

Preparing an agenda should also be prioritized during this stage. An agenda may seem fairly trivial, but these tools are crucial for keeping a meeting on track. Agendas should highlight all of the primary talking points of the meeting, including progress made on action items from previous meetings. Using an agenda will keep everything organized and ensure that important topics receive the attention they deserve.

Speak the language

Each external stakeholder group has different concerns and interests — and this will naturally require that different verbiage and communication styles be used depending on the nature of the meeting. The content and presentation must be adapted to the needs of the audience, just like how leadership wouldn’t address its IT and marketing teams in the same manner.

As business coach and author Jack Spain advises, “Be prepared to utilize multiple communication approaches that best fit the most appropriate communication style for your target audience so that your value message reaches them. Also, employ effective listening skills, which is often the most powerful proficiency that you can develop for effective communications.”

Speaking the language of your meeting’s “target audience” will allow you to better communicate the company’s vision and goals. More importantly, it will ensure that you set clear expectations and generate better stakeholder engagement.

Use webinars to reach distant stakeholders

With an increasing number of companies relying on digital infrastructure to support their growth, both internal and external stakeholders are more geographically spread out than ever before. This can make it difficult to coordinate meetings in a way that will allow all relevant parties to be actively engaged.

Fortunately, several technologies have emerged alongside this trend to better support these communications, with webinars being particularly noteworthy for their ease of use and cost-effectiveness.

For example, in a ClickMeeting case study, SUBWAY Russia used webinars to provide educational materials to both current clients and potential customers alike. Despite these individuals being spread across six different time zones, the use of webinars simplified leadership’s logistical challenges so all relevant parties could “attend” the meetings at the same time.

Though webinars are commonly used as part of a brand’s content marketing strategy, this is far from the only situation where they can prove effective. Webinars can also facilitate meetings with stockholders, eliminating costly travel expenses while still allowing two-way communication and effective presentation of relevant information.

Follow up

External stakeholder meetings are only effective when they are able to motivate action and appropriately address the needs of the stakeholders. Any decisions that were reached or action items that were assigned to meeting participants should be recorded and sent to all participants.

This will help prevent any miscommunications or misunderstandings that could otherwise occur.

Though you might have several months before the next formal meeting between C-suite leadership and the external stakeholder group, this doesn’t negate the need for additional follow up during the intervening period.

Company employees who were assigned tasks as a result of the meeting should provide regular status updates regarding their progress. Similarly, C-suite leadership should communicate such progress to their external stakeholders, when appropriate.

If the meeting was commercial in nature, even something as simple as sending a follow-up email to the potential client could make all the difference in securing a sale.

Continued communication will ensure that the desired outcomes are actually achieved.

Effective meetings, effective results

C-suite leadership may not need to meet with a company’s external stakeholders as frequently, but there is no denying just how important such meetings can be for a company’s long-term prosperity.

By taking the necessary steps to prepare your team before the meeting and streamlining the event itself, your team will operate more effectively and build stronger relationships with your external stakeholders.

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