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The Complete Guide To Conducting Effective Business Meetings

Wed Dec 10 2014
Meetings are an important part of nearly every business. Effective meetings allow owners, management and employees to communicate with one another, and also help to facilitate company growth and success. While they often take place between members of the same company, a business meeting may also be with prospective clients or between companies that wish to do business together. Unfortunately, not all meetings are as productive or as welcome as they should be. Often this may be attributed to poor planning, lack of participation and boredom. When conducting a meeting, it is important that organizers recognize what it takes to make it a success.

Be Prepared
Preparation is paramount when it comes to the success or the failure of a business meeting. There are very simple ways in which this can be done. To start, consider the purpose of the meeting as there should always be a clear purpose and desired outcome.

Meeting planners will need to consider what items are needed to get the message of the meeting across and help facilitate the meeting's goals. Some common tools that may be needed include white boards and projectors. Choosing the right location is also an important part of preparing for a meeting. It should be at a place that is convenient and that will comfortably seat all attendees. When it comes to who should attend, only invite people to the meeting who are affected by the topic on hand or who are needed to accomplish the goal. They should be given notice as early as possible so that they can free their schedules and make any preparations to attend. The final step in meeting preparation is to set up the room before people arrive. This typically involves situating the chairs in a manner that enables attendees to see one another and the person who is heading the meeting. Placing chairs in a square or a semi-circle formation is an effective way to accomplish this.

Outline and Follow an Agenda
Agendas are crucial when creating effective meetings and should serve as a type of road map or blueprint. They provide a list of items that are to be discussed during the course of the meeting and they should be closely adhered to. When creating an agenda, prioritize it by placing the most important or pressing issues at the beginning so that they are the first items of discussion. This will ensure that all of the most important issues are addressed within the timeframe allotted for the meeting. Items of less importance should be placed at the end of the agenda. These should be items that, if not addressed due to time constraints, may be carried over to the next scheduled meeting. When possible, agendas should be sent in advance to everyone who will be attending the meeting; otherwise they should be given to attendees at the onset of the meeting. At the start of the meeting the agenda should be reviewed, and during the course of the meeting it should be referred to frequently to ensure that it is being followed and that the meeting is staying focused and on track.

Start and End on Time
Starting meetings on time is an important step when it comes to good business meeting etiquette. Whether it is a meeting for co-workers, clients, or employees, take into account that their time is precious and meetings inevitably take away from it. For this reason it is important that they start on time every time. The start of a meeting should not be postponed or delayed due to the tardiness of an attendee. Organizers should stress the importance of punctuality and always practice it themselves. As important as it is to start on time, it is equally important to end on time as well; however, it is acceptable to end meetings earlier than expected.

Maintain Focus
Keep the meeting as focused as possible. This will ensure that both the objectives are met and that the meeting concludes as scheduled. As the organizer of the meeting, stick to the topic and steer any off-topic discussions back on track. Ensure that everyone participating in the meeting follows good business meeting etiquette by respecting others' time. Keep anything that does not have to do with the topic on hand, including individual grievances, gossip, or personal discussions, to a bare minimum, as these types of discussions have no place at a meeting. Just as important as keeping people on topic is keeping input from long-winded participants to a minimum.

Encourage Participation
Successful meetings rely on the participation and input of everyone present. During most meetings there are certain people in every group who will regularly comment and be active participants. While their input is important they should not be allowed to dominate the conversations, nor should they be the only ones taking part in the meeting. When conducting a meeting, encourage attendees who are generally silent to express their opinions and provide input. Let everyone know that their contributions have value and that they are appreciated. When running a meeting, make it clear that personal attacks and other disrespectful behavior are not acceptable.

Get Feedback
Feedback is just as important as preparation, agenda, or any other step associated with holding successful meetings. While talking to individual participants is one way of getting the necessary feedback, it is time-consuming and commentary may not be as open and straight-forward as it should be. One of the simplest ways to get valuable information is to have the attendees fill out a questionnaire at the end of the meeting. The purpose of the questionnaire is to determine if the meeting achieved its objective, time was used wisely, or if there were any areas that were unclear or could have been presented better. In addition to learning what went wrong with the meeting, feedback also lets organizers know what went right.

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