A Real Mastermind: How to Make Your Meetings Productive

Word around the camp fire is… Masterminds have developed a poor reputation.

For most people they bring to mind images of slightly drunken business owners, patting each on the back, talking big, but accomplishing little.

Which is a shame.

Because I’ve found that masterminds have the potential to propel your business development forward at a remarkable rate.

The main reason why so many of them degenerate into a bubbling cesspit of hot air and alcohol fumes is a lack of organisation. As we discussed in a previous article, creativity needs structure to be productive, and this applies equally to mastermind groups.

Without clearly established guidelines and arrangements, masterminds are not only ineffective, but they waste the time of everyone involved.

But the reverse is equally true.

With carefully agreed guidelines and structure, mastermind groups can be extremely effective and a highly worthwhile investment of time.

Dom & I discussed the good, the bad and the ugly of Mastermind Groups on Ep 10 of The PreneurCast Podcast.  

I originally joined a mastermind group because everyone was telling me that I should. I wasn’t really convinced that they were worth the effort, but I figured I’d give it a go. I was living and working in Geelong at the time, which is a beautiful little coastal town in Victoria where I’d pulled off “selling the MCG”, but we were really just a bunch of wannabe entrepreneurs.

We got together for dinner every couple of months and it wasn’t particularly well organised. We just chatted and generally had a pretty good time.

Then, in one of the sessions, someone said to me, “your MCG story is pretty cool. Why don’t you make it into a book?”

I thought, “yeah, that sounds good.” So, for the next session, I wrote a book proposal and let everyone review it and give me some feedback.

Ten days later…

I got a phone call from the an editor at the publishing giant,  John Wiley & Sons.

It turned out one of the guys at my mastermind group had recently done some IT work for a book printer, and he’d called up the printer and said, “I know someone who needs to write a book. Could you take a look at this proposal?”

From there it was passed to John Wiley & Sons and they gave me a call.

We set up a meeting and I went along expecting to get some suggestions on how to improve my proposal. Instead, I walked out of the meeting after half an hour with a book deal.

Pretty freaky, huh?

If that’s what a rough and ready mastermind group can achieve, imagine what can be accomplished when it’s done properly!

I’ve been a firm believer in the power of mastermind groups ever since, and over the years I’ve been able to witness, first-hand, what does and doesn’t work in making a mastermind session successful.

So, here it is – my quick-start guide to running a successful mastermind group.

1 – Form a Group

Obvious right ?

But for those who don’t know – a mastermind group is a group of people with similar goals. It could be an association of entrepreneurs, freelance writers, small business owners, or anything else. How tightly themed you want your group to be is entirely up to you.

Ideally you want your group to be local enough to be able to meet up in person, but if that’s not possible, you can always arrange group conversations through SKYPE. (But just like deal making – it’s better done face-to-face.)

2 – Have Rules

If you’re the one responsible for managing your mastermind group, try not to be a dictator. Think of yourself as the chairman of a board. Everyone around the table should have an equal voice, but your goal is to keep everything organised.

And that means making rules.

You don’t have to go nuts and itemise every last nuance of the meeting, but work together as a group to come up with a list of “dos” and “don’ts”, as well as a structure for the meeting.

For example, the mastermind I currently belong to has an open voice policy. Everyone has the right to call people out and to do so bluntly. If we think someone is being a douche or not living up to his potential, we have the freedom to call them on it – no holds barred.

That level of openness might not be for you, but this is what the rules are for; to establish what is and isn’t acceptable. But as a funny and wise man once said “Thou shall not be a pussy”.

3 – Come Up With a Name

If you think about all the famous groups and organisations that you’ve ever read or heard about, they all have a name. And your group should have one as well.

It doesn’t have to be clever, it doesn’t even have to make sense, but come up with something to call your mastermind group. This will help you to think of what you have as some sort of club or underground movement; it’ll help to bond you all together.

4 – Chit-Chat

Leave the first 10-15 minutes of the meeting open for everyone to chat freely among themselves. This gives everyone time to get the small talk out of the way and get settled into the environment.

5 – 15 Minutes

This is where the structure comes in. Everyone, at every meeting, gets a maximum of 15 minutes taking the spotlight.

Have someone with a timer, and after 15 minutes, no matter what stage they’re at, the person speaking has to stop and hand over to the next person.

Obviously, you can adjust the exact length of time, depending on the number of people in your group, and how long you want the meeting to last – but I’ve found 15mins is the perfect length of time to get to the point, without waffle and restricting tangents.

6 – Content

You also want some structure to what is included in each person’s 15 minutes.

At the group I belong to everyone aims to include:

  • An update on how far they got with the accountability pledge (see below) made at the last meeting. (2-3 mins)
  • A tip, strategy, tool or resource that they’ve discovered since the last meeting and that they think will be useful to others. (2-3mins)
  • A problem, question or friction point on which anyone in the group can offer their suggestions, feedback and input (10mins)
  • An accountability pledge (a job or action that the person wants to accomplish before the next meeting). (1min)

7 – Notes

While you’re speaking you’re going to get a lot of useful ideas and comments thrown at you from the rest of the group, but if you try to take notes as you go along, you’re going to miss stuff or waste some of your 15 minutes. Instead, have a rule that the person who just finished speaking has to make notes for the next person speaking.

This is for two reasons:

  1. It gets them back into the meeting quickly; if you let a person who has just been focused on, “off the hook”, their mind will still be wondering off on points just discussed about themselves, and that just isn’t fair.
  2. Having a scribe is MUCH better then recording the sessions. We NEVER record our mastermind sessions; this builds trust and openness that is ALWAYS hindered by a tape recorder.
Not overly relevant to Mastermind NoteTaking; but Ep 30 of PreneurCast discussed Effective + Efficient NoteTaking 

8 – Tools

Google Groups is a great tool to use in-between meetings. It allows you to send emails to everyone in the group in one go, and also ensures that all your conversations are archived for future reference.

It’s also a good idea to setup a Dropbox folder to which everyone has access, so you can easily share resources.

Whether you’re in a mastermind currently, or planning to start one of your own, following the above suggestions might just help you get the most out of your time together.

That said, every mastermind group is unique, and you should come up with some of your own ideas to set yourselves apart.

Just make sure you have some sort of structure. It’s the only way your meetings will truly be productive.

Have you been in a mastermind group ? Want to start one? Let us know in the comments below!
  • http://thechangeyourlifeblog.wordpress.com/about/ Stuart Young

    Good advice. I belong to a Skype MasterMind group and we record the meetings so there’s no need to make rapid notes, it can be done afterwards at leisure. 🙂

  • James Martin Duffy

    In the process of setting up a mastermind, and you sharing your structure was helpful. Thanks!

    • http://www.PreneurMarketing.com/ Pete Williams

      Awesome James!

      Hope your mastermind kicks butt.. Just make everyone comes prepared and it doesn’t just turn into a chat fest!


Pete Williams is an entrepreneur, author, and marketer from Melbourne, Australia.

Before being honored “Australia’s Richard Branson” in media publications all over the continent, Pete was just 21 years old when he sold Australia’s version of Yankee Stadium, The Melbourne Cricket Ground For Under $500! Don’t believe it? You will! Check out the story in the FAQ section (it really is our most asked question).

Since then, he’s done some cool stuff like write the international smash hit ‘How to Turn Your Million-Dollar Idea Into a Reality’ (+ the upcoming ‘It’s Not About the Product‘) and he’s created a bunch of companies including Infiniti Telecommunications, On Hold Advertising, Simply Headsets and Preneur Group.

Lots of other people think he’s pretty good too! He’s been announced as the Global Runner-Up in the JCI Creative Young Entrepreneur Awards for 2009, the Southern Region Finalist in the Ernst & Young 2010 Entrepreneur of the Year, and a member of SmartCompany’s Top 30 Under 30.

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