A recurring theme that we hear these days in the business world is “time is money.” When it comes to business meetings, the more time spent in ineffective company meetings, the more money is wasted for organizations. Business owners and employees spend so many hours in meetings that it is very important to optimize this time and turn “meetings of the minds” into sustained results.
One of the downfalls of business meetings is that many of them have no identified structure, purpose, or objectives, and end up turning into long, tedious time-wasters. This leads to frustrated employees as well as management.
This situation can be avoided with some purposeful planning before the meeting and attention to detail during the meeting. Below are seven tips on getting the most out of business meetings.
1. Identify the purpose of the meeting (i.e. the goal that needs to be accomplished). Some questions to ask are: “why is this meeting necessary?” or “what are we trying to accomplish by having this meeting?” By clearly identifying the ultimate objective of the meeting, the meeting planner is able to narrow down what information needs to be discussed during the meeting, as well as who would add value to the meeting to accomplish the ultimate goal.
2. Identify who needs to attend the meeting (i.e. those who need to contribute or those who need to know the information). As indicated in tip #1 above, it is important to determine who has the required knowledge to add value to the meeting and help accomplish the ultimate goal of the meeting, as well as who needs to be informed of the meeting’s results (for future decision-making, for example).
3. Send out enough information to those who will attend and participate prior to the meeting so they can adequately prepare. Providing pre-work, charts, graphs, and other reading material 48 hours before a meeting helps prepare participants for the meeting and significantly increases the chances of success. In addition, if you are looking to another meeting participant to provide information during the meeting, let them know ahead of time.
4. Schedule a convenient time and place to hold the meeting. Make sure the meeting location is comfortable, and that there are minimal disruptions to the meeting. Participants tend to be more active in meetings when they are comfortable-not when they are hungry, too cold or too warm, or thinking about how early or late the meeting is.
5. Prepare a meeting agenda and stay on task. Provide an outline of topics to be discussed during the meeting (this can be sent out ahead of time-see tip #3 above) and at all times possible, stick to the agenda. This will eliminate unnecessary discussion and increase the meeting’s effectiveness. As other issues come up during the meeting (but there is not enough time to significantly address the issues), make note to discuss at a later time or in a subsequent meeting, which leads me to tip #6…
6. Stay as close within the designated meeting time (beginning and conclusion) as possible and schedule a follow-up meeting if necessary. People are busy these days and it is not fair to monopolize their time by overextending your meeting. If discussions are getting longer than anticipated, at a good stopping point, politely inform meeting participants that the discussion will need to be tabled until another time, and schedule another time to finish the discussion.
7. At the end of the meeting, provide a summary of meeting results. Summarize what was a discussed and agreed to in the meeting, as well as any follow-up action items (see tip #5 above) and who will be responsible for those follow-up items. After the meeting is over, providing this information to the meeting participants will help to ensure everyone is on one accord and will make any follow-up meetings that much more effective.
By implementing these tips, your meeting will have structure, purpose, and objectives, and will be the means for achieving results.