Murphy’s Law says “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong”. This claim can easily be applied on business meetings, but only if you are not prepared. It doesn’t matter if we are talking about the meeting organized to train employees, set business goals, discuss ongoing projects or close an important sale, it is crucial to be ready for more than one outcome, so that you can efficiently handle tasks, make presentation, provide feedback and brainstorm ideas. Just making the meeting happen is not the end of your duties. It should also be efficient by preparing the groundwork on time. Let us see how you can prepare, in order to keep the meeting running smoothly.
Know the Motive of the Meeting
Knowing the motive and the purpose of the meeting is important for both the leader of the meeting and the participants, who are expected to provide valuable feedback. Sometimes, meetings can be arranged so that some important decisions would be discussed among the managers and employees, but they can also be a way to solve problems. Business meetings can serve to communicate a new initiative or simply to improve productivity.
Do You Really Need a Meeting?
A study of trends in business meetings found that $37 billion per year is wasted on unnecessary meetings, in the US alone. So before you go ahead and arrange a meeting, consider other – for that situation more efficient – approaches. It is better not to meet if the problem can be solved one-on-one, if you don’t have time to prepare, if another method of communication can work just as well and if you need opinions from a number of individuals.
Set the Agenda
Agenda plays a critical role in the efficiency of a meeting. A list of topics and a logical sequence can make or break every meeting. The first step in the sequence should be a brief introduction that will explain the purpose of the meeting, provide context and name the discussion topics ahead. Determine a clear order for each topic and how much time you want to devote to them. Be aware, though, that the longer the meeting – the easier the participants will lose focus, so try to keep it short and streamlined. Print out and distribute the agenda to all participants to make it easier for them to stay engaged and focused.
You can’t and shouldn’t do everything on your own. Getting the other participants involved in the process will simplify your work and help you concentrate on specific points and increase their engagement. These are some of the most useful roles:
- A timekeeper makes the discussion more efficient and timely.
- A facilitator guides the discussion.
- An expert shares knowledge on specific issues.
- A scribe writes down/types key ideas and decisions and hands out notes.
Have All the Necessary Equipment and Documentation
Omissions such as “As you see on the paper number 3” (which you forgot to include in the documentation) happen more frequently than you can imagine. Check several times if you have all the materials in place and send them to participants a couple of days ahead. Meetings often flow in unexpected directions, so keep in mind that you will need to write down or explain something that’s not already in the materials. Install a whiteboard in the meeting room and always have a fresh whiteboard marker for such situations. If your material includes a PowerPoint presentation, be sure you have a computer, projector and a projector screen in the room where the meeting will take place.
In the end, make sure there are no confusions regarding the meeting time, the availability of the space and purpose. If you are suffering from “stage fright” try to rehearse the entire agenda several days before the actual meeting. Approaching the topic well prepared and with confidence will motivate the attendees to listen and actually participate.