The Richard Branson guide to meetings

He’s one of our most charismatic business leaders with his own distinct style when it comes to getting the most from meetings. We learn a few lessons from the head of Virgin.

Richard Branson has pretty much done it all – built a vast business empire, ballooned around the world, gone to space.

He even edited a student magazine in the late ‘60s and signed the Sex Pistols to his Virgin Music label in the ‘70s.

Richard Branson Talking to a Woman

It’s this willingness to take risks and play by his own rules that has made him so successful.

But being so busy means he can be a hard man to pin down and his time is important. This makes his meeting style unique…

Stand up
Stand up meetings are becoming more popular and are a favourite of Mr Branson. The reason he loves them is that they get people to focus on the task at hand.

Blogging for Virgin, he wrote “I find it to be a much quicker way of getting down to business, making a decision and sealing the deal.

“Another positive about meetings outside the boardroom is a lack of fancy tools, and instead an emphasis on real communication.”

These meetings should take no longer than 10 minutes – and if you’re feeling extra fit, you could even make them a walking meeting.

Take notes
For those longer meetings when standing or walking is not an option, Sir Richard gets the most out of them by taking notes.

He recently said on Twitter: “I’m amazed when I go into meetings and am the only person taking notes. Write everything down.”

But it shouldn’t end there. Notes should only be the starting point – they should lead to action, says Branson, adding that you should be “converting these into…to-do lists.”

“It’s how I get things done,” he adds. “If you don’t write things down, you will have forgotten them before you leave the room.

“We could never have achieved a tenth of what we’ve achieved without systematic lists and actions.”

Richard Branson Shaking Hands With a man

Don’t rely on PowerPoint
The day might come when you’ll be lucky enough to be pitching an idea to Richard Branson – if that day does come, ditch the PowerPoint presentation. Or at least, only use it as a prompt, not an autocue.

He says: “Kill the slide deck. If anybody ever puts the words they’re about to tell me up onto a screen, I’m tempted to walk out. Pictures yes, but PowerPoint presentations absolutely no!

“At least don’t use slides filled with text that merely reflect what you’re saying. If you need a reminder, put it on a screen in front of you. Instead, keep people’s attention with photos or short videos.”

Add diversity
Good ideas can come from anywhere, and are often found in the most unexpected places. Branson is a big fan of meetings full of people from a variety of roles and backgrounds.

In his LinkedIn blog, he says: “Convening what might seem an unlikely bunch can really get the ideas flowing. I always find that these eclectic groups lead to great discussions.”

He also recently brought in a singer who wowed guests with jazz, folk and soul. He says something out of the ordinary like this can reflect a great meeting of minds.


Posted by Sara Cano

Images courtesy of: Stefan Rousseau/PA Archive/Press Association Images & Hugo Philpott/PA Archive/Press Association Images


Blog Latest