Redeeming Meetings – Advice For Photographers

Isn’t it amazing how little time is spent actually shooting on any given project?! As a manager, I’d love to put a time counter on my photographers to get an accurate assessment as to exactly how much time they spend preparing for, participating in, and dealing with the extraneous items associated with a shoot. It’s just a reality of the business that, in order for a photographer to get behind the camera, they also have to contribute to the details leading up to and immediately following a shoot. Sure, there are varying degrees of effort, and sometimes there are producers, assistants, or support staff that can take on some of the details, but the photographer is always engaged in the non-shoot elements to some degree. However, a photographer isn’t without the opportunity to exert some control over this preparation process, and that brings us to the subject of the all important meeting or, should I say, meetINGS.

Meetings with clients and stakeholders are necessary in the preparation leading up to, and sometimes following, a shoot; but so often, all that time spent on the phone, in conference calls, and face-to-face sessions is a liability. First off, I have to say that most meetings simply end up producing more work than they’re worth. Secondly, they take up precious time, can drain creativity, and steal passion for the project. However, complaining won’t help you so let me unpack a bit of helpful advice: take control of the meetings you participate in, at least as far as your part is concerned. The biggest concern from a business perspective is that you’re likely only associating billable hours to the shoot itself and, therefore, the prep time – and especially these meetings – is a blow to your earning potential. The way to extract more value for yourself is to set up some parameters and expectations for the meetings you’re involved with.

What’s wrong with meetings you ask? Well, the erroneous justifications can look something like this:

• Someone wants to give or receive an update on tasks. This is why most meetings take place, but it is not a great justification for a meeting because the flow of information is unidirectional. Send an e-mail instead.

• The meeting is called because some slackers in the group and the boss want to get everyone back on track. Don’t be a slacker and don’t subject yourself to working with slackers if you can help it; besides, berating or embarrassing people in front of their peers doesn’t improve motivation, and it wastes everyone else’s time.

• Meetings seem like a good place to clear up a disagreement – but that’s bogus. If there’s a difference of opinion about a project, stakeholders should approach each other individually and find ways to move forward. In a group setting, there’s a bit of a gang mentality and that’s just not cool.

• Meeting to build excitement is stupid. Motivation is a daily management challenge, not a one-time fix. Private conversations are better, but something social is ideal. A pint after work, a spontaneous coffee run, a small gift, or a quick encouraging phone call are all better than a meeting.

So many inefficiencies and liabilities can stem from meetings and vocational photographers would be well served by having as few of them as possible. When that’s not possible, do everything you can to ensure they’re productive, valuable, and engaging. A meeting should have a clear goal and be an open dialog; otherwise, I call a foul and so should you.

Advice for Weekend Warriors: Without clients to worry about your likely to have very few meetings pertaining to your photography; however, when attending meetings at work or in your community use that time to practice your meeting decorum.

Advice for Working Warriors: Here are a few ways you can take charge of your meeting environment:

1. Before agreeing to a project, include a request for a meeting schedule or provide your own schedule – one that fits your calendar. Pre-scheduled meetings are very successful at limiting the emergency or single-issue meetings.

2. Plan something for immediately following the scheduled meeting so that you have a hard stop, and make sure everyone knows this before the meeting starts. This also has a tendency to push the important items up to the beginning of the meeting, leaving the silly details for the end, which you can politely excuse yourself from.

3. Work at being the best meeting attendee or leader. Whether in person or on the phone, rock every meeting with a great attitude and be solutions-oriented. And be early, or at least on time. When you’re late, you’re not entering the meeting from a position of strength.

4. End each meeting with a summary of YOUR action items. Don’t worry about everyone else; just make sure everyone knows that you’ve got things covered.

This is an excerpt from Corwin Hiebert’s ebook “Growing The VisionMonger, 10 Things a Manager Can Teach You About Running & Growing Your Business”.