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Business Know-How: Running an Effective Meeting

Organizing effective staff meetings is key to business success.  Properly conducted meetings help your team stay informed and on-task, allow you to resolve issues within the company quickly, and encourage teamwork by bringing everyone together to solve problems.

Many managers and meeting leaders are running unproductive meetings without even realizing it.  Poorly-run meetings waste company time, frustrate managers and employees, and may not even accomplish the leader’s intended goal.  No Effective Meetingmatter how carefully you plan, you (as meeting leader) need to consider four particular points:

  1. The meeting’s objective.
  2. The issues you must touch on to accomplish this objective.
  3. Proper preparation.
  4. Your team’s time.

1. Objective.
Set a particular goal for what you would like each meeting to accomplish.  Think about what you want to have changed by the end of the meeting in order to help you form a clear objective – and think about whether you want to reach a final decision on each issue or discuss new ideas and resolve in the future.  This will also help you decide who should attend the meeting.

2. Important issues.
If an issue isn’t important to your meeting’s objective, save it for another meeting.  Talking about irrelevant topics distracts your team from the meeting’s goal and could sidetrack everyone mentally.

3. The necessary preparations.
For your team, attending a meeting where the leader isn’t properly prepared is like watching a high-school science fair presentation where the kid clearly forgot to do his homework.  Be sure that you have all the necessary charts, spreadsheets, images, and documents in an easy-to-find place before the meeting starts.  Test your PowerPoint presentations beforehand.

4. Good time management.
Remember that your team has plenty of other tasks to do – don’t draw the meeting out excessively or crowd it with irrelevant issues (see point 2).  If your meetings have a history of going overtime, consider trying the following next time:

  • Declare a set amount of time that will be spent on each topic.  You could go even further and divide your sub-topics into time segments as well.
  • Decide in advance what you will do if you run out of time for a particular topic and have not accomplished its objective (e.g. if you come to the end of your ten minutes to discuss budgeting for office supplies in 2012 and have not reached a definitive solution, will you extend the time by five minutes?  Come back to it at the end of the meeting?  Discuss it again at the end of the week?)
  • Don’t invite people who don’t need to be there.  Their time is better spent doing something else.
  • Don’t start the meeting late for anyone who has not arrived.  Latecomers can catch up later – it’s important to respect the time of those who showed up.