11 Tips on How to Make Your Business Meetings Run Smoothly

A lot of us dread the office meeting. They are an unwelcome interruption when we're busy with work projects and racing towards that next deadline. They also mean that we have to be in the same room as that annoying manager or co-worker we’ve been trying to avoid. But meetings also allow teams to get together to determine goals and to establish who is responsible for each task. This makes business meetings a necessary evil, and a crucial method of communication between management and employees. We can all agree that the best kind of meeting is a short and efficient meeting, so we’ve put together eleven tips on how you can keep your next meeting running smoothly.

1. Be Strict About Time


Schedule a specific time for the meeting and stick to it without exception. People are busy and become frustrated when they’ve shown up on time, only to find the start of the meeting is delayed. To begin, explain how long the meeting is going to take and be strict about adhering to this too. Have an idea of how far you need to be in the proceedings by the halfway mark. This will help keep things on track. If employees can trust that the meeting will end at the specified time they’ll be more likely to participate, and less likely to keep checking their watches.


2. Be Clear About Who is Overseeing the Meeting


A meeting should only be called because someone has a purpose they want to achieve. This person is then responsible for calling the meeting, setting out their goals for it clearly, and expressing how they want to achieve those goals. If the meeting has no set purpose and no defined overseer, it will probably flounder and end up being a waste of time.


3. Clarify the Mode of Communication


Defining the priorities and objectives of the meeting will help you determine what kind of communication you’ll use. For instance, if the goal is to work through the different opinions of various staff members, then the meeting will take on a debate style.


Be aware that open debate can be time-consuming, and the more people involved, the longer the meeting will take. Choose carefully who will attend and limit the numbers to include only those whose input you value highly. Don’t just pick those people you know will agree with you!


If you want to communicate a new company policy, for example, then your goal will be to educate. The meeting will then be run more along the lines of a lecture or presentation.


4. Keep an Open Mind


As meeting leader, you need to maintain the direction while still allowing new perspectives to surface. Remember to listen to the opinions of inexperienced team members and let them have a say too. While inexperienced colleagues should not be allowed to dominate the conversation, time should be allowed to explore their viewpoints. This could give insight into whether they’re ready for new responsibility or highlight areas where they need mentorship. It can also result in some valuable fresh angles.


5. Keep to the Topic


Never allow the meeting to deteriorate into random drifting from subject to subject without resolving any of the issues at hand. This not only wastes time but also frustrates the attendees. You could keep track of subjects using a whiteboard so that participants can keep an eye on what’s been accomplished and how much still needs to get done.


6. Keep it Logical and Unemotional


Try to keep participants’ emotions calm. Keep your tone level, logical and analytical. If people’s emotions begin to get heated, it can cloud how they perceive workplace reality. Try to keep the entire conversation firmly based on facts.


7. Assign Personal Responsibilities


In a setting where group decision making is necessary, it’s easy to lose personal responsibility. You need to be very clear whose job it is to do what, and when their deadline is.


8. Allow Everyone a Chance to Speak


Every participant should be allowed a couple of minutes of uninterrupted time to get their viewpoint across. This doesn’t mean that someone should be allowed to ramble on indefinitely, but everyone should be given the courtesy of being listened to. This includes time to gather their thoughts and present them without fear of misunderstanding or being interrupted by more forceful members of the group. This can reinforce a culture of respect within the group.


9. Be Careful of Garrulous Characters


Some assertive personalities have a way of getting their agenda through before others have a chance to analyse it carefully. These fast talkers rely on the meeting’s leader not wanting to appear ignorant. As meeting leader, you’re responsible for making sure that things make sense. If you’re struggling to follow what the person is saying, chances are that there are others in the room who are struggling too. If you feel you are being pressured into making a decision, say something like, “Sorry to seem ignorant, but I’d like for you to slow it down a little so that everyone can be clear about what you’re suggesting.” Then ask questions in a logical sequence.


10. Capture Actionable Items


Someone needs to have been assigned to take notes or record the meeting in some way. If actions have been decided upon, make sure they’re noted with the name of the person responsible and the due date. Most meetings result in actionable tasks for at least a few of the participants. The exception would be meetings that are held purely to inform. As soon as the meeting has concluded, the assigned person must summarise the outcome, set down assignments and deadlines and email a copy of this to everyone who attended the meeting.


11. Achieve Finality


It’s crucial that by the end of the meeting you reach completion of the conversation. Decisions need to have been agreed upon and expected actions made clear. After everyone has had a chance to verbalise their ideas, it’s essential to clearly state the conclusion, whether there is consensus or not. People need to walk out of the meeting feeling that something has been achieved.

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