How to hold effective meetings that strengthen your business

Meetings play an important role in most businesses. They provide an opportunity to share information, troubleshoot issues and agree on how outcomes will be achieved. However, not all meetings are time well spent. In fact, an online survey conducted by Microsoft Office sought responses from over 38,000 people in 200 countries and found that the average full time employee spends 5.6 hours each week in meetings – and a whopping 70% of respondents felt those meetings weren’t productive. That’s a lot of wasted time and money. So how can you hold more effective meetings, and how can they strengthen your business? Let’s explore…

Before you meet, define the purpose

Consider why the meeting is necessary – what specifically do you need from it? Think about who needs to be there and who doesn’t need to be there. What is an appropriate venue for the meeting? And how much time is reasonable to allocate to it – remembering that associated costs include not only your time, but the time of all participants. Consider if the meeting must be held in person, or can it be conducted over the phone, or even addressed in an email?

No matter what, have an agenda

Once you’ve decided that a meeting is required, it’s time to create an agenda. Don’t overlook this important step, whether you’re meeting with one employee or ten. It will take just a few minutes to prepare an agenda which is guaranteed to keep your meeting on track, saving you more time in the big picture. List out each topic you want to cover and allocate an estimated duration (usually in minutes) within which this should be discussed. At the end of the agenda, include a discussion topic for ‘other issues’. Incorporating this ‘other issues’ topic means you’ll give participants the opportunity to raise important issues you may not be aware of without derailing the original intended purposes of the meeting. Your agenda should also include space for ‘action items’ to be noted along with who is responsible for them. If this is a reoccurring meeting, you may wish to go back over the previous meeting’s action items at the beginning of each meeting (list this as an agenda item). Distribute the agenda to all participants the day before your scheduled meeting.

Give everyone the chance to be heard

Not everyone is comfortable with speaking up, even if they have something important to add or a great idea that deserves to be heard. As the person convening the meeting, it’s your job to make sure everyone is given the opportunity to contribute. To help the more introverted people in your business contribute more comfortably and effectively, you might think about giving 2-3 minutes in your agenda to each participant, giving them time to speak about how things are going with their workload or share any ideas, questions or thoughts.

Post-meeting follow up

Some kind of follow up will be required after almost every meeting you hold. If there are actionable items arising from your meeting, it may be appropriate to send an email follow up to all participants noting these. The intention of any post-meeting follow up is to ensure all participants understand what’s expected of them. If new processes or procedures have been agreed upon, you might want to meet again to get feedback on how the changes are working in practice.

Effective meetings = stronger business

When you run more effective meetings, your employees gain a greater sense of purpose and clarity over their responsibilities. By creating this kind of workplace culture, you’ll get the best out of your people, directly benefiting business productivity, your clients and your reputation.

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