If there’s one thing businesses should know how to do correctly, it’s how to hold effective meetings. Whether you’re meeting with clients or having an internal discussion between team members, meetings should be productive and beneficial for everyone involved – and they should never be a waste of someone’s valuable working time.
In fact, I’ve found the first step of hosting an effective meeting is asking yourself whether it needs to happen at all. Is this something that could be clearly conveyed in an email or quick, informal discussion? If you decide to move forward with it, here’s a guide for all of the parts that make up successful meetings:
Failing to prepare for a business meeting of any kind could very well lead to disorganized discussions and wasted time. That said, the most important way to prepare is to build an objective and an agenda for everything you’d like to see accomplished during the discussion. Everyone involved in the meeting should receive the agenda beforehand so they can read it over and come up with talking points or questions.
For more formal meetings, especially those that include clients, you may want to consider sending business invitations to make sure everyone is clearly invited and encouraged to RSVP. For client meetings, you should also come prepared with business cards, extra agendas and any other background materials necessary.
Meetings require a schedule, and not just as a formality. The time you set aside for your meeting should be clear to everyone involved, and you should begin and end on time. Meetings that start late or run long are inconvenient and discourteous to everyone involved. That said, you should never begin late to wait for tardy people, and if people show up a few minutes into the meeting, keep the interruption as minimal as possible. Be sure to build a schedule into your agenda, and don’t forget to set aside a block of time near the end for questions and discussion.
In order to keep to the schedule you prepared, prioritization is a must. If you want, ask for people’s input upon sending out the agenda to find which topics are most important to discuss while everyone’s in the same room. Then, start with those subjects that matter most so that you don’t run out of time before getting to something integral. Use the 80/20 rule to prioritize: 20 percent of the items on the agenda should hold 80 percent of the value. That way, even if you discuss a small amount, you’ll cover what’s most important.
Meetings should rarely consist of just one person speaking for nearly the whole time frame. Even presentations can involve some participation and discussion. Encourage participation from everyone involved by allowing time after each subject for questions or comments. Then, use some time at the end of the meeting for the entire group to air concerns and evaluate the points made. In client meetings, begin with introductions so that everyone feels comfortable speaking during the rest of the discussion.
A clear conclusion
The conclusion of your meeting should include two things: A summary of the discussion and actionable next steps for everyone involved. Do not wrap up the meeting until everyone understands clearly how they will move forward individually and as a team. Also, be sure someone writes down everyone’s responsibilities so that you can send a follow-up email. These next steps should be specific and include a deadline to ensure everyone is on the same page. Then, for client meetings, be sure to pass around business cards and thank everyone for joining the meeting.