Most businesspeople have very strong opinions about meetings; the majority of folks share similar negative complaints against them:
I bet you have heard these all before. You may have even thought these things yourself.
Productive, valuable, and engaging meetings require a clear goal, an open dialog, and a strong leader. This will ensure that each meeting runs smoothly and effectively – saving you and your team members time and money!
Poorly run meetings can be painful work activities that incite feelings of obligation and contempt; in general, though, meetings don’t have to be unpleasant and unproductive. There are a few ways in which managers and supervisors can run a meeting with optimal efficiency and productivity. Here’s how:
Before every meeting, take some time to prepare an agenda and timeline so that certain goals can be realized within a specific time frame. Ask yourself: What do the participants each want to discuss? What is the meeting’s objective? List the topics to be covered and how much time will be dedicated to each.
Send the agenda to all participants in advance; be sure to have hard copies of the agenda at the meeting. Having the list as a reference and reminder will allow everyone to stay on point; preventing the discussion from digressing into other, less important areas.
The best meetings, in which an agenda can be achieved top to bottom, are regulated, business-like, cordial, and orderly with general participation guided by the meeting organizer. Individual side conversations must be curtailed immediately; no single participant should be allowed to monopolize speaking time or the discussion.
It is easier to maintain order if ground rules are established and observed from the outset; for example, how long an individual may speak or what technology will be used. The meeting organizer should even know when to tolerate disagreement, as meetings are an opportunity to share differing opinions should they exist.
Every meeting should have a stated goal or objective. No one has the time to attend a useless, extraneous meeting. If you don’t set out with a clear-cut goal, announced in the meeting invitation and printed on the top of your agenda, then participation will seem less-than-necessary and the importance of the meeting diminished.
Know why the meeting is important, and be sure you know how to accomplish the goal as advertised. Don’t be afraid to postpone a meeting if it will do more harm than good.
A meeting organizer must be aware they are asking people to carve out time from their already busy days. They should not be forced to wait on others, especially if more than five or six people are present.
Common business etiquette—the respectful, mutually advantageous kind—calls for meetings to begin and end on time. If you hold frequent meetings, lay out the schedule and attendance ground rules from the start. Encourage participants to be punctual; begin the meeting as scheduled and allow only marginal flexibility on the back end.
You may wish to consider a policy in which no one may enter if more than 5 minutes late and that only the allotted time is observed.
Appoint a person to take notes at the meeting. These minutes including who was there and what topics were covered; then distribute them within a reasonable time frame after the meeting. This will ensure that everyone walks away with a clear understanding of what happened in the meeting, that there is no loss of information or convolution of expectations. Minutes can serve as the “official” record of any complex developments or change in status, such as a history of negotiations, project progress reports, and for legal and archival records.
One last point – people’s attention spans are short. Regardless of how much you have to cover, make certain that a meeting is never scheduled for more than an hour. Plan for 10-15 minute breaks if they do run longer. Remember that everyone is very busy, and participants may become distracted and inattentive, compromising the meeting’s intent.
Check out Robert’s Rules of Order
For further discussion or comments, please contact Gail L. Trugman Nikol, President Unique Business Solutions, firstname.lastname@example.org or call (516) 935-5641.