Preparing the Organization for Effective Business Meetings
Our focus at Business Travel Gadgets is to provide our users with the tools they need to be successful in their business activities. This objective does not change regardless of whether you are traveling or not; we consider it our mission to provide you with useful tools whether you are at home, in the office or on the road. And conducting an effective and productive meeting is essential for the continual improvement of any organization.
It is important to note that effective business meetings do not just materialize after reserving a conference room and sending out your invitations. To ensure that your meeting will be as productive as possible, some planning must be involved. It will also be helpful to understand how to recognize when your meeting is “off track” and to have a process for taking back control.
So, let’s explore some basic steps toward conducting an effective business meeting:
Culture of Respect for Meetings
You will want to develop a culture of respect for meetings within your organization. This does not need to be as rigid as it sounds. But you will need to make clear that every participants time is as valuable as any others. Believe me when I tell you that standing firm on meeting etiquette will catch on and the participants will appreciate the effort.
Disruptive behavior of any kind should not be tolerated during a business meeting and this expectation should be clearly communicated throughout the organization. When potential meeting participants are properly trained and the expectations for acceptable meeting etiquette are clearly communicated, your chances of having an effective meeting increase diagrammatically.
Create an Agenda and Distribute in Advance
There are several reasons you will want to create an agenda for every meeting. The most obvious reason is to ensure you cover all the intended topics.
The agenda will assist in staying on track and if you take the extra step of assigning an allotted time for each topic, the agenda will also keep you on time.
It is important to distribute the agenda well in advance of the meeting date. This will allow the participants time to prepare and more importantly will prevent unwanted disruption when attendees are not prepared. Include any expectation on the agenda as well; if participants are expected to bring documents then spell that out on the agenda.
Remember the agenda is the detailed structure of your meeting. The more information that you include on your agenda, the more likely you are to have a successful meeting.
Establish Roles for Frequent or Larger Meetings
It may be a good idea to establish roles for a frequently held meeting or any meeting with a large number of participants. Once again there are several reasons for assigning roles. For frequently held meetings, it is easy to skip taking notes if the meeting has become routine. And for larger meetings, it is simply too much for one person to chair, take notes and maintain control. Let’s review a few roles for an effective business meeting:
- Chairperson – The leader of the Meeting
- Facilitator – Keeps the meeting on track and often monitors the time
- Record Keeper – Keeps the minutes for the meeting
Start and End on Schedule
The first step to conducting an effective business meeting is to start and end the meeting per the announced schedule. A good business meeting chairperson will understand that the structure of the meeting is vital to its success. Any deviation from the intended structure may lead to an unwanted disruption.
As you may expect, there will be the occasional late arrival. It is important that you do not allow the late arrival to disrupt the flow of the meeting. Do not update the tardy individual and do not get into a discussion regarding proper meeting etiquette. These are discussion that can wait until after the conclusion of the meeting.
Table Discussions that are not on Topic
Very few meetings will go exactly as planned. However, there are a few tricks to help ensure that your next meeting is as successful as possible. One such trick involves tabling any topic that does not fit with the agenda. This can be done by simply having a pad of “sticky notes” on the table.
Create an area called the “Parking Lot”, write the topic on a sticky note and place it in the parking lot. Promise the participants that you will revisit the parking lot items at a later time and continue with the scheduled meeting. This method gives credibility to the topic and allows you to continue without distraction.
Of course the key to making this method a lasting process, is following through with your promise to revisit the topic. This can be done later in the meeting if time allows or your can schedule the topic into the next meetings agenda.
Develop Action Items and Assign Ownership
Every meeting should end with a list of action items. Unless you have solved every objective while in the conference room, there should be a list of items that will need to be completed. These items are called action items and each action item should have at least one owner.
Each action item should have a clearly defined objective and each item should have a clearly defined due date. The action owner will be expected to give periodic updates on the objectives progress and notify the group when the action item is complete.
Value every Opinion
A meeting will quickly lose value if the participants feel that their opinions are not important. As a business meeting leader, you will want to show interest in everyone’s opinion. This should be done without causing a distraction to the agenda. As mentioned above, topics that are not agenda-related can be tabled for another time.
Another added benefit to revisiting suggested topics is the opportunity to look at the suggestion with “fresh eyes”. During a meeting with a set agenda, the leader will likely be focused on achieving the intended goals. He or she may not have the ability or the time to give full attention to a non-agenda item.
Tabling the item for a later meeting, will give the meeting leader to focus on the true value of the topic. And should the topic not have productive significance, the leader will have the time to clearly define the reason.
When you schedule a business meeting, and particularly when you have traveled to attend a business meeting, the effectiveness of the meeting will determine your over all success. Following some basic guidelines for conducting an effective business meeting will greatly increase your chances of meeting your intended goals.