In the business world, there are things that we might fear more than competitors, an angry customer, or an email outage. One thing that is feared in the business world is, wait for it, the business invitation. The vast, vast majority of business people dread ineffective meetings and, even more, they dread an invitation to yet another ineffective meeting.
Part of being great at your job is learning how to run an effective meeting. Here are five tips to running an effective meeting:
Tip #1 – Do We Need This Meeting? The reason that people do not want to go to meetings is because there already are so many ineffective, unclear, or unsuccessful meetings. Before you even decide to have a meeting, determine what you need to accomplish in your meeting. Are you trying to share information, conduct an analysis, reach a decision, or coordinate a new product launch? All of these are critical decisions that may or may not require a meeting. For the majority, information can be shared via electronic messages. For business challenges that require coordination or a decision, then some type of meeting is required. The central point is that if people do not like meetings, then determine why you need to have the meeting in the first place.
Tip #2 – Determine What is Success? When you decide the “why” of why you are having a meeting, then the next step to determine is when you will reach success, how do you define success, and how will you know if you reach success from various sources. For example, if you are coordinating the launch of a new product, you need to know who needs to be there, how often to meet, how long after the launch do you need to meet, the date of the product launch, and what business measures (sales, cost, profit, customer satisfaction, etc.) determine success. Determining the goal or charter of the meeting group is essential so people are clear on the objectives, their tasks, and that the meeting has a clear end date based upon business conditions.
Tip #3 – Create a Written Agenda with Results & Assignments. Each meeting should have an objective. In addition to the reason for what the meeting will accomplish, there should be a list of attendees, any updates on the business metrics for the project, and any report outs (as needed) by other team members on previous meeting assignments. There should also be a distinct paragraph of any decisions needed, what the options are, and what the team’s decision was. At the end of the meeting, the meeting minutes should be updated and sent to the entire team. Finally, any information for the meeting and the agenda should be sent out a head of time, so everyone knows the information, what decision they need to make, and why. Finally, the next meeting location, participants, and date should be decided. The mistakes that most meetings make are that they inconsistently share information and do not work on the reasons the meeting is being held.
Tip #4 – Don’t Forget the Meeting Logistics. In person meetings should be in a well-lit, bright, well ventilated and open room whose location is centrally located for all meeting participants. Meetings are best held on Tuesday and Wednesday mid to late morning so meeting participants have a chance to prepare and follow up on meeting decisions in the same week. The agenda as well as supporting information should be provided to meeting participants 2-3 days prior to the meeting and everyone should clearly understand the decision (s) that the meeting will make that day. The meeting time should be between 30 to 60 minutes. If you have a meeting scheduled over 90 minutes, then break it into two or more sessions. Meetings that are 3-4 hours long create very little value. Shorter meetings for the participants to make the best use of their time. Finally, limit the number of participants to only those whose decision is vital and keep the number of meeting attendees below 8 to 10. Drinks are a great way to keep focus, but limit beverages to only the most basic to reduce meeting costs.
Tip #5 – Don’t be Afraid to Cancel a Meeting. Remember, time is every person’s most valuable asset in business today. If you cannot keep the planned objectives for the meeting or if you are missing essential participants or information, then cancel the meeting. Unnecessary meetings destroy time for participants.
Holding an effective meeting is a vital business skill that is largely missing today. Having clear meeting objectives, clear success measures, a meeting time of 30-60 minutes, a written agenda, and a specific list of decisions required in your meeting will make it an effective and rewarding business experience. Keep meetings concise, on track, and focus on completing the business objective, not on just another meeting.
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Chad Storlie is a Retired US Army Officer, the author of Combat Leader to Corporate Leader and has published over 200 articles in over 100 publications on military veterans, career advancement, business, leadership, strategy, education, financial planning, and national security topics. Chad excels as an author, mentor, speaker, and teacher showing business leaders and military veterans how military skills make lives, careers, and businesses better. Chad is an adjunct Professor of Marketing at Creighton University. Chad has a BA from Northwestern University and an MBA from Georgetown University. Follow Chad @CombatToCorp and www.CombatToCorporate.com.