Meetings are an inevitable part of the working week in companies of all sizes. From discussing proposals casually over lunch to formal boardroom presentations, meetings are a crucial way of bringing members of your company together and ensuring that they are all on the same page. Just ten minutes of face-to-face discussion with a colleague can create concepts or diffuse disagreements more successfully than weeks of emails or phone calls.
Nevertheless, we can all think of business meetings that have felt like a waste of time, and that have left us feeling more confused and frustrated than when they began. Fortunately, a few simple steps can take your meetings from boardroom boring to A-plus productive. Here are our top ten tips for getting true value from your next business meeting:
1. Stay focused
The most tedious meetings are those without a clear focus or objective. To avoid endless unproductive tangents, you need a clear idea of the meeting’s purpose. Jot down main objectives for the meeting for your own benefit, and ensure that all of the meeting’s attendees are aware of it in advance. If everyone walks into the room on the day with a clear idea of what they want to achieve, chances are they will succeed!
2. Set an agenda
Once you have a central goal for your meeting, you can start to base an agenda around it. This ought to be a comprehensive checklist of the points that you wish to cover in the meeting, and will be a useful reference for getting back on track should the conversation stray! Make sure that the agenda is available to all attendees, so they can feel in the loop and follow along.
3. Find the time
Picking an ideal time for a productive meeting may take a little more planning that you’d think. Find a time that most people are able to make, but ensure that it’s not a time when people will be concerned about impending deadlines - otherwise, you may find attention is in short supply! Meetings earlier in the day allow people to immediately put new ideas into action, so keep your mornings free for maximum productivity!
4. Pick the perfect venue
Whether booking a room or selecting an external venue, consider how many people will be attending your meeting. While a venue needs to be big enough to seat everyone comfortably, it also needs to be cozy enough for people not to feel inhibited. Check on facilities ahead of time to ensure that resources such as projectors and white boards are taken care of, and any accessibility issues are addressed.
5. Ensure attendance
Depending on the size of the meeting, there are various ways to invite people and check on who will be attending. In a small company, a last-minute meeting can quickly be called via word of mouth. However, giving attendees forward notice allows them to come to the meeting in the right mindset. Using a system such as Google calendar to inform people of the time, having an understanding of place and details of a meeting ensures that they have the relevant information to hand and no excuse for missing out!
6. Start out strong
First impressions can impact attendees’ responses throughout a meeting, so make sure that from the moment they walk in the door, they are picking up on productive vibes. Arrange the seating to complement the objectives of the meeting - if there is a presentation, make sure everybody will be able to see it. If you want attendees to interact, turn the seats to face one another. It is also important to be on hand to welcome everyone as they arrive and break the ice before business commences.
7. Take a stand
Facilitating a meeting can be nerve-wracking, but a confident leader can encourage attendees to interact and bring their own ideas forward. Demonstrate control of the meeting by sticking closely to your agenda, while ensuring that you don’t dominate the conversation so much as guide it. Regardless of how formal or casual the meeting is, it’s the facilitator’s role to keep proceedings civil and on track.
8. Take minutes
While you’re running the show, arrange for somebody else in the company to take detailed minutes of the proceedings, using the agenda as a guideline. This demonstrates to attendees that the decisions made within the meeting are recorded, and thus action is expected! Type up the notes after the meeting as soon as possible, and email them to all attendees. You can review the minutes at the beginning of a future meeting, allowing individuals to report on actions that have been taken since.
9. Be conclusive
Finishing strongly is just as important. Rather than letting discussion peter out gradually, you must make sure that your meeting ends on time, and with a clear call to action. Thank attendees for their time and contributions, regardless of how informal the gathering is. If time and circumstances allow, you might want tp follow the meeting with a drink or lunch, as an opportunity to further network or discuss next steps.
10. Encourage action
As mentioned earlier, a follow-up email with minutes and clear actions after a meeting is a great way to remind attendees of the points agreed upon and set out the next steps clearly. You may also want to ask attendees to provide feedback, which will demonstrate that all opinions are equally valued and give you the chance to iron out any issues before the next gathering.