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By Gwendolyn Goguelet
Special Contributor, Online Career Tips
Business meetings have a reputation for being boring, repetitive and time-consuming. However, there are many techniques for making your business meetings less boring, more efficient and successful.
First, ask yourself, “Do I even need a meeting to resolve this issue?” If the answer is “no,” it is often better to just send an email or make a phone call.
Your busy colleagues will appreciate your efficiency. How often do you hear workers say, “That two-hour meeting should have been a two-sentence email!”
Creating Business Meetings
For important business meetings, invite stakeholders with a vested interest in the project. Focus on individuals who will bring special expertise to the table. Explain why their participation is important. If you need someone only occasionally, then add his or her name to specific meeting dates.
Most business meetings should take no more than 30 minutes, an amount of time that accommodates people with busy schedules. Unless it is an in-depth project meeting, always try to keep your meetings to half an hour.
Be Specific with Your Meeting Information
There is nothing worse than getting business meeting requests with a vague subject line such as, “Project X – More To Come.” Your details might also include the ambiguous objective of “To get people’s input on Project X.”
Give your invitees specific information such as the purpose, date, time and location of the meeting well before the planned time of the meeting. Most importantly, offer them a clear agenda, preferably by including invitees’ action items.
That way, people will be fully prepared for your meeting and ready to give their input. It’s also important to include access information for remote participants and be mindful of different time zones.
Keep Business Meetings Moving
Set ground rules for your meetings; they should start and end on time. Depending on the purpose of the meeting, you may need to insist that participants refrain from staring at their laptops or answering cell phones.
It’s equally vital to stick to the agenda. If business meetings are short and focused, people will respect your ground rules. Also, they will feel more inclined to attend rather than find an excuse to be absent.
Encourage people to speak up, but keep the conversation focused on the agenda. Remember, silence does not equate to agreement, so take time to ask the quiet people for their input to capture their concerns.
Your job in the meeting is to facilitate discussion and resolution. If it’s an all-staff meeting with presentations from several speakers, have someone act as a timekeeper. Otherwise, a one-hour meeting soon becomes a two-hour irritation.
Create a ‘Parking Lot’ for Off-Agenda Issues
Make use of a “parking lot” for issues outside the meeting agenda; this could be an online document or a set of notes you take. Add these items to the next meeting’s agenda or handle them in a separate, smaller gathering.
It is important to validate people’s opinions. However, if their opinions are off-agenda, the parking lot is an excellent tool for future meetings. You can say, “I understand your concerns, but we only have 10 minutes left. I will schedule a separate time to discuss this with you in detail.” Those participants will appreciate the opportunity to air their concerns and you will still keep your meeting on track.
Before the meeting ends, take five minutes to reiterate action items — who is responsible for carrying them out and their due dates. This important step brings clarity and consensus of action before the meeting ends.
Keep a Record of Business Meetings
A critical communication component is to follow up your business meetings with action notes that describe three key elements: what, who and when. Distribute these action notes within 24 hours of the meeting when the information is still fresh in everyone’s mind. “What, who and when” instantly sets the agenda for your next meeting.
Celebrate Any Milestones with Food
Recognition of success is appreciated during long-term project meetings. Consider bringing some food items to these meetings. This adds a personal touch that shows you value your coworkers’ contributions.
Running Efficient Business Meetings Earns Your Coworkers’ Respect and Trust
In a workplace where there is so much competition for attention, your colleagues will appreciate your focus on clear, concise information and exchanges during business meetings. You will develop a reputation that earns their respect and trust – two key measures of good communication in the workplace.
About the Author
Gwendolyn Goguelet has been in the business world for more than 35 years. Gwendolyn has experience in marketing, regulatory compliance, property management and staff training in for profit and nonprofit work environments. Gwendolyn received a degree at Allegheny College in Pennsylvania in French and education. She attended continuing education classes at the University of New Hampshire, and professional development seminars in workplace communication, branding, project management.