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8 Tips To Conducting Business Meetings Confidently

Aug 17, 2007
How many times have you conducted a business meeting and found yourself not in control? The unnecessary sidetracking discussions and sheer lack of interest on the part of the participants can really frustrate anyone. Would you like to have managed the meeting with greater confidence and have better control?

Many a time you attend meetings and there are people there who just are not interested in what is going on. These people just distract the whole meeting. Unfortunately, sometimes people who are invited have very little reason to be at the meeting. It also does not help if the person facilitating the business meeting is not well prepared and the meeting is run in a very informal and unstructured manner. Sometimes, it is not even clear what are the objectives of the meeting. Then, what is worst is when time is up and no conclusion or decisions have been made. A pure waste of time for everyone.

Here are 8 tips that you can use to conduct an effective meeting:

1. Have A Meeting Purpose
First tip is to call for a meeting only if you have a clear reason for doing so. It does not matter that you need to resolve a problem, share some information or just get the team together to share their experiences and learn from each other. Just state the purpose. Once you are clear on your purpose, then you need to let the others know as well.

Besides the purpose, of course, inform them of the date, time and venue. State how long the meeting will be and keep to the time. Clearly articulate the objectives of the meeting. This will help them come better prepared. Depending on the purpose, the venue might also be different. If it is just a get together with drinks and food, then the cafeteria might be fine. If you need a projector, whiteboard and such facilities, then choose the meeting room accordingly and have the right facilities available.

2. Supporting Materials
Make sure that you are prepared with the supporting materials. If you need to present information, then have these prepared. It could be PowerPoint slides or printed documents. If you are using the projector, have it already set up before the session and tested. Copies of printed documents should already have been made before the meeting. Better if you have emailed the softcopies to them, so that they could have read it before the meeting.

If you are presenting the information, then make sure that you have prepared the points and not just ramble on during the meeting. Use the whiteboard or flipchart to note the main points so that you can get the audience to focus.

You may need some other people to present or provide information. Then inform them of what is required and the time allocated for them. Also clearly state the type of information you need and the questions that need answering. Getting others to participate also takes the pressure of you at least for part of the meeting. It also enables participation by the others, which normally creates a more lively environment as opposed to you talking on and on. Even you will agree that it gets pretty boring when you have to listen to the same person for some time.

3. Attendees Present Have A Purpose
There are times when parties remotely involved to the purpose of the meeting are invited "just in case" or just to keep them informed of the proceedings. Or it could be you need some information from a person but it is so little that for the person to attend the whole meeting is such a waste of time. It is ever so important that each person who attends has a specific purpose and role. If not, they can be disruptive to you conducting an effective meeting.

Meetings are often convened not only to discuss matters but also to gain agreement from a number of parties and keep everyone informed. Quite often, all of these parties are called for the same meeting as a convenience. Why? Because if you were at the meeting, then you are deemed to have agreed with the outcome. Does not matter that you were bored and sending sms messages during the meeting and did not hear most of what was going on.

It may be convenient for the person calling for the meeting but definitely a waste of time for the attendee. In such cases, it may be prudent to have the investigative meeting first. Collate and organize the information and then have a separate meeting to inform all interested parties. Agree that this will take a longer time, but the participants will appreciate your consideration of their time spent. Chances are that when you call for a meeting that they will turn up knowing that you do not waste people's time just for your own convenience.

There are a couple of other ideas that work as well. Get the person to join in the first part of the meeting, present their information and leave after taking questions. Or alternatively, have the person available to be called in only if required. This way, the other party is available during the meeting time but can be doing other work. Have seen this work well. What is more worthwhile is the fact that these people start appreciating the meetings that you conduct.

4. Document Outcomes/Agreements/Actions
The value of meetings is in getting agreements, generating outcomes or in agreeing on actions and who will carry out the actions. Cannot stress enough on the importance of having this written down during the meeting. Preferably on a flipchart paper or whiteboard. For actions, note the completion dates and who is responsible. At the end of the meeting, summarize these items. This means your meeting discussion needs to close about ten minutes earlier to go through these and allow for any clarifications.

5. Agree On The Next Steps
Once outcomes and actions are agreed upon, next important thing is to agree on the next steps. Plan and agree on when you will next meet if this applies. If not, agree on how you can ensure that action items are closed off. So often, very well run meetings become ineffective because they fail in their follow up actions. So, do focus on this part of the meeting.

6. Follow Up Documentation
Some people may send out meeting minutes. Some do not. At a minimum, you should document points agreed upon and action items and have these sent to all attendees. In case, points were misunderstood, the attendees have an opportunity to clarify. You will also find that people forget what was agreed upon, in which case, they have a document to refer to. This way, there should be no arguments in future about agreements made and action items.

7. Thank The Participants
On concluding, thank the participants for their attendance and contribution to the meeting. The attendees have taken time off to attend your meeting and some of them would have spent time preparing for it. Taking a few minutes to show your appreciation will help in getting their support and cooperation for future meetings and especially for the immediate actions that may be required. Just remember that if your meeting is successful, these are the people who made it possible.

8. Reflect On How You Managed The Meeting
After the meeting, take a short while to note what went well and what can be improved on. If your mentor also attended the meeting, you may want to ask for feedback on whether you ran the meeting confidently. Use the feedback to improve on the next meeting. If your review shows that you may need training, you can check out with your training department on appropriate training that you can attend. Or just buy or borrow a book on the topic. Of course, you can also find a lot of materials for free on the internet.

Everyone can conduct meetings confidently if they plan and prepare for it. Make sure that the attendees are informed of the purpose and agenda for the meeting and other logistics details. Inform them early if they need to come prepared. Have the relevant facilities ready for the meeting. Document the outcomes and actions resulting from the meeting. Agree on the next steps so that you can follow through.

When you have conducted a business meeting confidently and people are appreciative of it, there is great feeling of satisfaction. Just follow the tips provided and watch the significant difference in how confidently you run your next meeting.
About the Author
Regina Maniam has for many years managed people and managed projects where conducting effective meetings makes a significant difference in getting things done. Check out this website for more helpful information.
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