Business meetings: you either love them or hate them. To some people, meetings are an exciting time to brainstorm, collaborate and kick-start new projects with gusto. To others, meetings are a soul-sucking waste of time in which nothing is accomplished and a few people drone on and drag the meeting out into eternity.
If you’re supposed to be the host or leader of the meeting, the pressure is on you to make the meeting effective and productive, to keep everyone focused and to ensure that tasks are doled out fairly.
Hosting an effective business meeting is an important task! It may seem uncomfortable at first, because you’ll need to know how to moderate disagreements or how to push ahead when everyone gets off-topic and distracted.
The key to hosting an effective business meeting is to be prepared. Let’s run through a few important considerations that can make a difference with any meeting.
Create an Agenda
An agenda is simply a written guide to the meeting. It should state the meeting’s purpose and include a rough schedule of the meeting. In order to create an effective agenda, you need to:
- Know the meeting’s purpose. Will you be discussing a problem with a recent product launch? Will you be brainstorming a new marketing campaign? Will you be simply checking in on an existing project’s development?
- Ask attendees in advance if they need time to speak about something specific. Make it a habit to ask for additional agenda items a day or two in advance of the meeting.
- Devote appropriate time to each agenda item. The meeting’s main purpose should encompass the majority of the meeting (for example, at least 40 to 45 minutes for an hour-long meeting).
- Keep the agenda as sparse as possible. Don’t cram everything into a single agenda. Decide what can be handled through e-mail or a phone call, versus truly benefitting from a meeting of the minds.
A sample agenda schedule might look something like this:
- General Announcements (Host)
- Meeting Purpose (Host)
- Main Discussion (All Participants)
- Wrap-up and Assign Action Items (Host)
Be sure to share the agenda in advance of the meeting so that each attendee can come prepared. It is also common to go around the room and have each participant share a general update about last week’s assigned action items.
Invite the Right People
With larger meetings, fewer people will have the opportunity to talk. When someone is giving a presentation, this may be A-OK. But for facilitating a discussion, a small, focused group meeting is a better choice.
Who are the main players? Can a department representative attend and be responsible for sharing the results of the meeting with their colleagues? Be sure to invite the right people so that the meeting runs smoothly.
Choosing a Meeting Location
Your company office may have a room designated as the conference room, but that doesn’t mean it’s automatically optimized for effective meetings.
A meeting location should be quiet and well-lit. There should be some windows that can be opened if it gets hot and stuffy, and ideally the room has its own temperature controls as well. After all, once a dozen or so people fill a room, it will naturally heat up. Great meetings can’t happen when everyone is sweltering and uncomfortable.
Inside the meeting room, there should be a projector for displaying PowerPoint slides, schematics or websites. A whiteboard or paper board for brainstorming is useful as well. And comfortable furniture never goes amiss. A water cooler is helpful for those who will be doing a lot of speaking.
If you don’t have a suitable meeting space in your office, you can always rent a meeting room off-site.
What should you do if the attendees are not centrally located? Technology to the rescue. There are now a multitude of virtual conferencing apps and tools that cater to your specific meeting needs. Think of them as beefed-up versions of Skype. Depending on the tool you choose, you can enjoy easy screen sharing capabilities, a virtual real-time whiteboard for collaboration, the ability to mute attendees for enhanced audio quality and a chat bar for taking side questions during a presentation. The possibilities are endless.
When the Meeting Time Arrives, Follow the Agenda and Be a Leader
As a meeting host, you need to be prepared to say some key lines, such as, “Let’s follow-up on that in e-mail” or “What do you think about the design, Nancy?” or “Gwen, can you write the copy?”
In short, you need to be able to:
- Keep the meeting moving (versus getting side-tracked with other conversations);
- Call on people for input when you feel it is needed;
- Assign action items or suggest courses of action to come to a conclusion.
Put key points in writing, and always end the meeting with a review of action items, including who is responsible for them and the deadline.
To help your co-workers or employees stop dreading meetings, you need to be respectful of their time. This means not only starting and finishing on time, but also making the meeting worthwhile. This includes only calling meetings when there is a true reason to do so. But with a little bit of practice, anyone can become comfortable and skilled in the role of a meeting host.
Cathy Habas is a freelance writer from Louisville, Kentucky who enjoys writing tech, business and lifestyle topics with an objective to offer an informative content. She works with clients around the globe and has helped nurture several start-ups into flourishing businesses. Cathy also offers services like proofreading, editing and Spanish to English translation.