Three Steps to Better Meetings

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When they are done correctly, business meetings can be a valuable part of business operation. Done poorly, they can be irritating and useless, dragging employees away from important tasks. If your company is wasting too much time in meetings, take action to improve the process and create a more efficient system.

Plan Ahead

One of the crucial flaws in many business meetings is a lack of planning. Without a solid plan of action, meeting organizers invite too many people and fail to keep the conversation on track. As a result, many attendees wind up sitting for an hour without contributing or gaining anything.

The easiest way to hold more efficient business meetings is to spend time organizing. Set a clear purpose for the meeting and invite only the people who are directly involved. Develop an agenda and a time line and ask attendees to keep their remarks focused on the meeting purpose. In doing so, you'll force each speaker to edit their comments to include only vital information and prevent the discussion from veering off into unrelated areas. Close out the meeting by summarizing the major points and asking each person to state what actions they are going to take moving forward. This step gives attendees the chance to spot missing action items and ensures that everyone is on the same page.

Set Clear Time Limits

Most professionals have been in business meetings that drag on interminably with no end in sight. These sessions are draining for everyone, particularly when they sputter to a close with no resolution. Prevent long meetings by setting — and enforcing — strict start and end times. Before the meeting, assign each presenter a specific time limit and allow time for group discussion or open communication. Print the time allotments on the agenda so each attendee knows what to expect. During the meeting, assign a chairperson to run the discussion and stick to the schedule. When everyone in your company becomes accustomed to the new structure, meetings will run more efficiently and effectively.

Follow Up

Great business meetings are useless if no one completes their assigned tasks and action items. To provide closure and ensure that each business item is completed, do a follow-up. After a meeting, send out a summary of the notes and the next steps; include the specific person who is responsible for each task and the time line that was agreed upon in the meeting. Check in with each person periodically to gauge progress and provide assistance when needed. As each person completes their tasks, ask them to report back to the group over email. By encouraging open communication and accountability after a meeting, you can close the loop and create a sense of accomplishment.

With attention and time, you can transform business meetings from irritating distractions to powerful tools. As the new process becomes embedded into company culture, it will become second nature for employees, and pointless meetings will be a thing of the past.


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