CAREER ADVANCEMENT / SEP. 27, 2014
version 3, draft 3

How to Run an Effective Business Meeting

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Many people have attended a business meeting of one form or another. A poorly planned and executed business meeting can drain participants, leaving them wondering why they attended in the first place. However, an effective business meeting will revitalize attendees and give them a sense of accomplishment. The difference between the two boils down to three factors:

  • What was the meeting’s objective?
  • How was time used?
  • Were participants satisfied?

The following are some guidelines for running a successful business meeting:

1. Have a clear objective

Every business meeting should accomplish a specific objective. Therefore, before calling people for a meeting, you need to be clear on the desired outcome. This could be coming up with ideas, making a decision, getting status reports, making plans or simply communicating some information. When the objective is clear, it is then easier to run the business meeting.

2. Use time properly

Proper time management is very important to avoid wasting people’s time. Make sure everything happening in the meeting is in line with your pre-determined objective. Anything that is not relevant should be left out. To ensure that the meeting remains on track, it would be advisable to have a specific agenda. When creating an agenda, keep the following factors in mind:

  • Results – What outcome should be achieved at the end of the meeting?
  • Priorities – What topics have to be addressed?
  • Sequence – How will the topics be covered?
  • Timing – How much time will be allocated to each topic?
  • Place and date – Where and when will the meeting happen?
  • Participants – Who should be invited for the meeting?

To maximize on the meeting time, think of what participants need to know beforehand. For instance, if the objective of the meeting is brainstorming, ask participants to come having already thought of some ideas. If the purpose of the meeting is submission of reports, ask participants to prepare a short summary which can then be circulated to others.

To encourage interest and involvement, it would be advisable to assign different topics to different people. Inform them of their role well in advance so that they can start preparing early. Remember to include the names of the people leading different activities in your agenda.

On the day of the meeting, start on time whether or not every participant has arrived. Make sure all your facilitators stick to their allocated time slots. Don’t waste time recapping information for the sake of latecomers. If time runs out before a discussion is exhausted, it can be deferred till another time or assigned to a sub-committee for further deliberation. Do your best to end the meeting at the time indicated on your agenda.

3. Ensure participant satisfaction

Once your agenda is ready, it would be advisable to share it with the participants. Their feedback and input can prove very valuable. For instance, you might realize that some items have been allocated too little or too much time. In addition, there might be important points that have been left out of the agenda. Involving participants from the onset will ensure a sense of satisfaction from involvement.

During the meeting, there are several things you can do to enhance participant satisfaction:

  • Give every participant a chance to get involved in the discussion. Look out for individuals who could dominate the discussion and keep them in check
  • Take note of body language and act accordingly. For instance, if participants look tired, for could give them a short break
  • At the end of every discussion, give a short summary of what was said and ask the participants to verify
  • At the conclusion of the meeting, ask participants to share their experience and give suggestions for future improvement. You should also prepare a meeting summary which captures the deliberations, as well as the action points assigned to different individuals. This summary should then be sent to all the participants and other interested parties.

The key to running an effective meeting is having a clear pre-determined objective and a tight agenda, as well as engaging participants in the planning and implementation.

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