10 Ways to Make Your Next Business Meeting More Effective

Business meetings, defined as “any gathering consisting of two or more people in a professional setting” are meant to provide a setting where ideas can be created and problems can be solved whilst developing work and leadership skills. Yet, many of us feel that meetings are ineffectual, not so much because they are essentially insignificant, but because they’re poorly organized and managed.

Here are our top 10 ‘Must Dos’ to make meetings work:

1. Clarify Goals: An effective and efficient meeting is one where the goal is achieved for which the meeting was held. Therefore, clarifying the aims or purpose of the meeting is the first step to a successful meeting. If the aims of the meeting are not clear a meeting should not be arranged. One way to clarify aims is to ask, “Once the meeting is over, what do I hope will have happened?”

2. Create an actionable agenda: Each item on the agenda must begin with an action word. For example, “Decide on date and venue for staff party”. Distribute the agenda and other pertinent materials in advance to those who are involved.

3. Allot specific amounts of time for each item according to their importance: A good strategy to do this is to consider the likely level of participation and agreement for each agenda item. If a consensus is not reached in the allotted time, the agenda item should be “parked” until all other items are addressed. Time permitting, it can then be re-addressed in the same meeting or carried forward as an agenda item for the next meeting.

4. Begin the meeting on time. Nothing more needs to be said here.

5. Establish ground rules: All members violate ground rules sometimes, and it is the leader’s role to remind the group about how members are expected to respond or react before the meeting begins.

6. Use a Parking Lot: Important issues that come up but are not directly related to the agenda item should be noted on a separate sheet of paper. This can be consulted for agenda planning for succeeding meetings.

7. Wait to critique: Effective meetings are participatory and should involve everyone. All ideas should be sought and shared before critiquing. Waiting to critique generally increases participation.

8. Summarize decisions: All decisions taken in a meeting should be restated and summarized. This helps to ensure that all members hear the same thing.

9. Plan next agenda: Agenda items for the next meeting should be invited from the group or some members could be given the responsibility to work on creating agendas. Members are more likely to participate in a meeting if they are allowed to have some input into building the agenda.

10. Evaluate the meeting: Before the meeting adjourns, a brief evaluation should take place in order to identify areas of improvement. This can be done by the chairperson asking some informal questions, or administering a brief paper/electronic survey where the results are aggregated and shared.

If done right, meetings can be a powerful tool for business success. If not, like someone said, they’re just events at which minutes are kept and hours are lost!