Running a Business Meeting Effectively

Estimated read time 3 min read

Meetings frequently last longer than necessary and don’t engage the participants. Here’s how to conduct a meeting properly. Meeting etiquette is essential for successful business because it promotes effective decision-making and clear communication. But far too frequently, meetings drag on past their proper length and are ineffective at retaining participants. Show off your boardroom savvy with these meeting essentials, whether you’re meeting with business partners, suppliers, or staff.

Decide what the goal is. The meeting’s tone and course will be determined by its clear goal. Your objective should be clear and quantifiable. Ask each attendee to arrive with a list of ideas if you anticipate brainstorming. Consider whether a meeting is actually required.

Meeting costs can be high. The exact cost is determined by dividing the duration of the event by the hourly rate of each participant. Skip the meeting entirely if your goal can be achieved via email, a conference call, Skype, or even a brief one-on-one conversation.

Decision-makers should be invited. The most effective meetings include stakeholders so that decisions can be made quickly. If a key decision-maker is unable to attend, ask a subordinate to do so. Ideally, this person will be able to speak for their supervisor while also taking notes and reporting back.

Stand Up. Routine meetings to check in with employees and discuss status reports are usually completed in 15 minutes or less. If everyone stays standing, you’ll be more likely to keep the meeting brief and to the point.

Plan your time wisely. Avoid Monday mornings, when everyone is catching up on e-mail, if you want each meeting participant to be fully engaged. Avoid Friday afternoons as well, when employees are finishing up the week and looking forward to the weekend. Meetings should be held on a day and time when participants are most likely to participate.

Set a time limit for yourself and stick to it. Attendees lose patience and focus when meetings last for hours. Attention spans are limited, and time is money. The most productive meetings begin and end on time.

Set priorities for the agenda. Don’t leave the most important issues until last. Discuss the most important issues first to ensure that the highest priority objectives are met. If someone needs to step away or leave the meeting early, you’ll still have met your primary objectives.

Stick to the plan. The agenda is an outline—a framework—to keep everyone on track and the meeting flowing. The agenda should be kept to one page and should only include the main topics of discussion. Sidebar conversations are a waste of time. If participants continue to speak out of turn, intervene and suggest that they speak after the meeting or schedule a separate discussion. Then immediately return to the topic at hand.

Tell stories to convey concepts. Explain why a group should care when you present key concepts or new ideas, especially models that are difficult to understand. Use examples and frame the issue with a quick story.

Wrap it up nicely. At the conclusion of the meeting, quickly reiterate any decisions, deadlines, and clarify any required follow-up action. Everyone in the meeting should know exactly what is expected of them. Schedule any follow-up meetings as soon as possible.

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