Meetings are an inevitable part of business life, however, they needn’t be painful or slow. Given the right attendees, agenda, venue and facilities, they can be extremely productive. Here are some tips to ensure your next meeting is remembered for the right reasons.
Get your goal in mind
The most effective meetings are those that start with a specific goal, or set of objectives in mind, which are then adhered to and sorted by the time the discussions draw to a close. So draft and send out agendas well in advance to allow people to reflect and prepare. Gather all the supporting material you think you are going to need and make sure you leave enough time to discuss each item on the agenda without going into too much detail about matters that can be sorted out further down the line.
Stay on topic
Appoint a meeting chairman who is able to keep things moving and prevent attendees from straying too far from the point. Supply everyone with a paper copy of the agenda at the start of the meeting, so they know exactly what they are there to discuss. Arrange a separate meeting later on if people want to talk about matters not included on the agenda. Only invite those who are relevant to the discussions at hand and consider breaking the meeting into sections to allow people to come in just for their areas of expertise and so avoid wasting their time with matters that are irrelevant to them.
Just as people should feel comfortable when working at their desk, they must also be able to take part in meetings without feeling cramped or in pain from having to use unsuitable chairs or office tables. Invest in ergonomic seating to aid concentration and choose tables that offer enough space for everyone in the meeting to place their papers down and take notes. Don’t forget lighting and air quality issues when designing your meeting room – natural light and access to moving air, e.g. from an open window, fan or air con unit will help keep people’s attention focused and their energy high during longer meetings.
Watch the clock
Try not to let meetings overrun, as this is often demoralising and can mess up people’s schedules further along the working day. Install clocks in all meeting rooms so that the meeting chairman can keep an eye on the time and keep things on track. If the time runs out and you have not completed all the discussions, schedule in a second meeting to carry on another time, without the pressure of going over schedule and having to hurry things along.
Finally, always take notes during a meeting. This is crucial for two reasons. Firstly, it documents what was decided, what needs to be done next and who is responsible for moving things forward. Secondly, it acts as a record of what happened and what was said at the meeting, should any disputes arise at a later date.