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Make Business Meetings Work For You

Do you dread business meetings because they are seen as a waste of valuable time? Do you think there are far too many meetings which are not really necessary for productive work? Is there any truth in this?

Actually, there is. Valuable time and effort can be saved by substituting some meetings for a quick face-to-face or telephone chat, or even through emails. Substituting all meetings with another mode of communication, however, is not always the most effective solution as many business meetings do have their place and can bring enormous benefit to you and your company if used effectively. The exchange of information and ideas, bonding between team members and improved morale and productivity that can often come out of meetings can be very difficult to replicate in other forums so it’s important to know how to get the most from them.

So how can you make business meetings work for you and ensure they do not become a frustrating waste of time? The most important thing is to decide in the first instance if a meeting is really necessary and worth the time and money spent on it.

Once you know the meeting will take place, be sure to follow these top tips to plan, run and follow up on effective meetings.

Plan the meeting

  • Choose a date suitable for all or at least the most critical staff members. In doing so be aware of any differences in holidays or working weeks that may impact people’s schedules.
  • Establish clear objectives and goals.
  • Prepare and send out the agenda in advance.
  • Send out any other materials and handouts that can be read beforehand to save time during the meeting for discussion. This can also prevent annoyance and frustration at having reams of paper thrust at you to read and digest at short notice.
  • Prepare visuals like charts, graphs, pictures, slides etc that you need to show at the meeting.
  • Appoint a person to take minutes.

Just before the meeting

  • Inspect the meeting room if new or different.
  • Arrange the seating as is most effective – circle, U, horse-shoe etc. Count the number of chairs so there are no ‘dead’ chairs dotting the room. Reserve the chairs at the end nearest the door for any latecomers. Do not underestimate the importance of choosing and placing furniture that can affect the ambience and therefore the mental state.
  • Put out water, drinks, snacks etc.
  • Check that all technology required is working correctly.

During the meeting

  • Welcome everyone and use suitable icebreakers to create an atmosphere of camaraderie. Food often helps.
  • Turn off your mobile and request others do the same.
  • Spell out clearly the purpose, desired outcomes and the allocated time for the meeting (two hours should usually be the maximum time for most meetings, the shorter the better.)
  • Engage all members and ensure appropriate participation. According to a recent management survey 96% of professionals miss meetings; 95% arrive late or leave early; and 73% bring along other work so be aware of this and ensure people remain involved.
  • Remember it is not always what you say but how you say it. So be aware of your non-verbal communication and the messages you may unintentionally send out through your vocal and body language cues, particularly in a multicultural group.
  • Use visuals only as tools to support or emphasise your information. For example, do not use PowerPoint as a substitute rather use it for any important visuals or placeholders to keep the meeting discussions on track.
  • If the discussion diverts, politely but firmly bring it back on track. Prevent distractions and time wasting by reminding members they can bring up any other business at the end of the meeting, time permitting.
  • Learn to effectively deal with different types of questions.
  • Make sure members who assume responsibility for any follow-up action know clearly what they should accomplish and by when.
  • End with fixing a date for the next meeting, if required, and its purpose.
  • Start and end on time.

After the meeting

  • Ensure the minutes are distributed within 24 hours of the meeting when the topics discussed and agreed are still fresh in the minds of the participants.
  • Try to deliver on whatever you have promised.

A tight and efficiently run meeting with the right atmosphere and active participation can contribute to growth in team spirit, staff morale and productive business. So while some may feel that meetings are a waste of time, if they are managed and run effectively they can bring enormous value to you, your team and your organisation.

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