There is an art to running an effective business meeting. Effective meetings take planning, time management, recorded outcomes, distributed results, and effective follow up action. Perhaps, the most essential key to holding an effective meeting is to to plan and put effective meeting components in place well before the actual meeting. For a meeting to be effective, the goals, attendees, agenda, invitation, meeting materials, and meeting location must be established in advance to set the stage for success. If you are planning a meeting, here are five steps you must take before the event:
1. Determine the Meeting Objective. You must keep your eyes on the prize. You must know the outcome you hope to achieve by having the meeting. Do you want to inform people? Do you want people to reach a decision? Do you want people to inform you of their work and ideas?
2. Invite the Right People. A meeting is only as good as its participants. If you don’t include the attendees who can make decision, the attendees who need to hear what you have to say, or the attendees who have the knowledge you need, you aren’t going to reach the meeting outcomes you need. Monitor your e-mail and electronic calendar to ensure that your key invitees are actually able to attend. If the people you really need at your meeting decline your invitation, there is no shame in canceling the meeting. Most attendees will be glad that you spared them from a worthless meeting and that you freed up some valuable time in their busy schedules.
3. Put the Agenda and Relevant Materials in the Electronic Invitation. If you want informed input from meeting participants, you need to set their expectations for the meeting by providing an agenda and relevant materials in the invite. You should attach a copy of your meeting slides so that attendees dialing in from remote locations will be able to access them. By previewing your meeting materials, attendees will be better prepared to contribute to the meeting.
4. Include Teleconference or Internet Meeting Information in the Invite. Nothing is more frustrating than missing part of a meeting due to the lack of a conference call number or even worse having the wrong conference call number. If your attendees are dispersed over a wide area and can’t attend your meeting in person, you need to provide them with the information they need to dial in.
5. Be Ready To Start On Time. One final aspect of meeting planning is being ready to start on time. You need to get to the meeting location on time, make sure the conference room is properly set up, establish connectivity to your network, and make sure that you can show your slides in the room.
While e-mail, teleconferencing, internet meeting, and conference room technologies may change, the essentials of planning an effective meeting remain constant.