Have you ever wondered how to run a successful business meeting?
Have you ever been in a meeting and thought any of the following?
What am I doing here? This has nothing to do with me.
What is the point of this meeting? There is no outcome.
When will it end? I have places to go and people to see.
I wish that person would just stop talking so much and trying to take over the meeting.
Knowing how to run a successful business meeting is a very valuable skill set. So many meetings are a waste of time and money. The question is, “How do you run a successful business meeting?” One that delivers on the result that is intended. As a business coach these meeting tips are invaluable to share with your clients.
“A meeting consists of a group of people who have little to say – until after the meeting.” – P.K. Shaw
3 Parts to a successful business meeting
Let’s break the meeting down into sections of before, during and after. Then we can delve a little deeper into what will assist you in having a great meeting that people will want to attend.
Before the meeting.
It is better to have fewer, more focused meetings. I have been in meetings about having meetings and all sorts of useless time wasting exercises. A meeting can be expensive in staff time, travel and accommodation, lost hours and other hidden costs. If you do need to have a meeting, then there are a few things to do before the meeting.
• Ask yourself if the meeting is necessary or could it be handled in a different way. Example via email, memo or phone call? Is it important to have a conversation about the topic or are you just sharing information?
• Does the meeting have to be face to face? Meetings via Skype or video conferencing can reduce travel and time expenses. Especially if attendees are in different parts of the country.
• When will be the best time for the meeting? A meeting on a Monday morning might be great for some attendees, but not for others. A Friday afternoon might be good to discuss the week’s sales, but not great as a planning session. Consider what will work best in your organisation.
• Who needs to be involved in the meeting? Send out a list of all the attendees. If you are attendee, make sure you know who everyone is that will be at the meeting. Example, in a large organisation, you don’t want to run into the CEO and not know who it is you are talking too.
• Will the meeting add value to the attendees and organization? Will each attendee add value to the meeting?
• Does each attendee have to attend the whole meeting? Is it possible that people only come in during their time slot? Example in a sales meeting, you may have individual time slots for accounting, deliveries, sales director report, managing director vision, R&D, etc. These people do not necessarily need to be in the meeting at the whole time or even at the same time. They can deliver their input and then get back to their job.
• How long should the meeting be? The meeting outcome and agenda will help with this. You want to have long enough and yet be time efficient.
• Does it need to be held in a formal meeting room? Standing up meetings have become very popular. They can create a more dynamic and creative atmosphere. They also create more of a sense of urgency and less time is wasted. These can work brilliantly for daily status update meetings. They are also very useful for short team talk or motivation sessions.
• What is the purpose for the meeting? What do you want to achieve? A meeting that does not have a clear purpose will usually not deliver much tangible results.
a. State the outcome in the positive. We will achieve…
b. Sensory specific. What will you see, hear, feel etc. on completion.
c. How will you know and measure that you have achieved the intended outcome?
d. Will the outcome have an overall positive result?
e. Are the outcomes short or long-term outcomes?
• Create and provide all attendees with an agenda. Let them have an overview of what will be discussed and what the overall outcome is for the meeting. Giving them enough time to prepare for the meeting and to go over all notes, graphs, reports etc. that will be discussed.
• If you expect people to present at the meeting, give them a brief of what is expected, their allotted time window and ask what resources they may need to deliver their presentation.
• Make it very clear what time the meeting starts and ends. Ask attendees to be present and ready 10 minutes before the meeting starts.
• Where the meeting should be held. It is usually best to choose a meeting place where only business takes place. Example, having a sales meeting in the pub is not conducive to getting business done. You can always go out after the meeting.
During the meeting
• Establish rapport and maintain respect for each other. Having rapport will greatly enhance your ability to get your message across and accepted.
• State the outcome and evidence procedure for the meeting.
• Make sure that all the key people who need to be at the meeting, are there.
• Start and finish the meeting on time.
• Ask people to turn off their mobile phones, shut their laptops and minimize other distractions. Ensure that people are not distracted by people or cars going by. Example an open window on a busy road can be very distracting.
• Make sure you establish and maintain the rules of the meeting. This will help keep people in line.
• Ensure people stay on time and on topic. Also that nobody takes over or monopolizes the meeting. Thank them publicly for the contribution and tell them you would also like to hear from others. Stick to the agenda and schedule.
• Ensure the meeting is not hijacked for discussion of issues not on the agenda. You can ask, “How is that relevant to this meeting or outcome?” Say, “Thank you for that question/point/topic. It is not the purpose of this meeting to discuss that. We will make a note and send out further information or discuss it at the relevant time and place.”
• Involve all participants in the meeting. Ask them questions and for their opinions. Get everybody’s buy in. Keep the meeting fun and interactive. Brainstorming, games, etc. will help keep attendees engaged.
• You can also do a sensory check. Check the attendee’s physiology. Are they responsive and alert? One mistake companies make is to have a night out the night before a meeting. This can have an adverse effect on the meeting if not managed. There is no benefit in people being hung over or tired at the meeting.
• Have someone take minutes of the meeting. Attendees should also take their own notes. This helps with questions and with recall of what was discussed.
• Avoid death by PowerPoint. If you are the organizer, then don’t read off your slides or ask attendees to read the slides. You should be prepared for what you need to say, only referring to your notes as a reminder. Having given attendees sufficient time to prepare and look at graphs, reports etc. will negate a lot of boring and useless slides.
• Depending on the purpose for the meeting, you could use a conditional close:
“If I X then will you Y?”, OR “If I could, would you?” this helps to get commitment from participants to take certain actions after the meeting.
• If someone’s mind appears to be wandering, alert them and say. “In a few minutes I would like to ask you to backtrack what I have said.”
• Understand that you will have different personality types in the meeting. Give polarity person a job to do. People with a tendency to see the opposite side of an issue can demoralize others by derailing the synergy of the meeting. The problem is not their objections, it is the timeliness of their objections. Give them a role to play at a particular time. You could ask them to play the devil’s advocate, and to wait until the end for their thoughts.
• Conservative people might say “We have always done it this way and should not change.” One response is, “I’d be willing to consider doing it the way we have in the past if you will consider driving home tonight while looking only in your rear view mirror.” You could also give examples of businesses that have not changed how they did things and went bust.
• Summarize the outcomes, so that everybody is clear.
• Assign action items and tasks. Finish discussions with deciding who, what and how to act on it. Listen for key comments that flag potential action items and don’t let them pass by without addressing them during your meeting. Assign tasks and projects as they arise during the meeting.
After the meeting.
• Ensure meeting minutes are shared with attendees.
• Confirm action steps and what was discussed. Ensure people know what is expected of them and who is to do what so that there is no ambiguity.
• Get feedback of the meeting. Ask the attendees what worked well. What could be improved and what suggestions they may have for the following meeting. This may bring up suggestions that you have not thought about. Example, a sales person who had to travel back 200 miles after the sales meeting. If the meeting started earlier, then it could finish earlier. That way they would not get stuck in the rush hour traffic which added 3 hours onto their journey time. As such, this sales person is not an engaged member in the meetings as they know what lays ahead for them once the meeting is finished.
• This is not a time for criticism, but rather looking at ways to improve the effectiveness of the meetings.
• Follow up on the meeting. This should be done on the same day or as soon as possible after. Whilst the information and outcomes are fresh in their minds. This will also help them get going on what they need to do.
• Confirm who owns each task, the specific action points, deadline’s and intended outcome for each task.
• Keep each member accountable for their required action points and ask for reports or feedback on tasks.
These are some pointers for running a successful business meeting. They will greatly improve your chances of having a meeting that yields results. People will be far more likely to look forward to your meetings and will be more engaged.
If you need any business coaching or help with anything that has been discussed, then please feel free to reach out. We are always happy to help.