Preparing an effective business meeting can be a challenge for any manager. During their working day, managers spend a lot of time in meetings, so knowing how to prepare for a productive meeting is very important.
Bringing a group of people together provides an opportunity to be creative and to have high-quality discussions.
While meetings can be an effective means of sharing information, increasing morale, and identifying problems, seldom do they achieve their potential for positive impact. Why?
Primarily because those responsible have not learned how to plan or to lead an effective business meeting.
In addition, few organizations have any guidelines that would help their struggling managers turn their work groups’ discussion sessions into effective meetings.
As a result, business meetings become more of discussions sessions, losing focus on the main objective.
This article wants to provide clear guidance for preparing an effective business meeting and help you decide whom to invite, what to include in your meeting agenda, how to set up the room, and so on.
When do we need to have a business meeting
Here are some cases when we need to organize a business meeting:
- when we need to generate a spirit of cooperation within a department or other group
- when we need to enhance communication and information sharing
- when management needs to share and promote new ideas
- when an increased commitment to decisions is required
- when information is too complex or controversial to be transmitted in writing
- when misunderstandings or conflicting views are anticipated in a discussion
When planned carefully and conducted professionally, business meetings can have an open and supportive climate and help the department or organization accomplish its most important tasks.
Steps in preparing an effective business meeting
Effective preparation increases your chances for a successful and productive meeting.
Choose meeting participants
The following guidelines should prove helpful in choosing the team members to participate in the meeting :
- Discussions are most effective if the group is limited to approximately twelve or fewer members
- Invite only those individuals who need to be there (who can either contribute to or who are directly affected by the anticipated outcomes)
- It is always good to have individuals who represent different viewpoints (different groups, departments, or roles). Diverse groups provide a larger pool of information and a greater variety of opinions, abilities, personalities, and perspectives, resulting in a more creative approach.
Establish meeting objectives
The effectiveness of a meeting can best be measured by how well it accomplishes the purpose it was intended to serve.
This requires that you consider exactly what you want to achieve and what outcome would indicate that the meeting was successful.
Create the agenda for an effective business meeting
The agenda is your most important step in planning a successful business meeting.
List the topics to be addressed in the order of their importance.
Place critical topics first so that they can receive the focus, and time, they deserve.
In addition to a list of topics, the agenda should indicate the following:
- The goal of each discussion and whether or not a specific decision is required. Goals are useful because they help to identify key meeting participants and they help participants prepare for the meeting.
- The names of those invited to the meeting
- How members can prepare for the meeting
Prior to the meeting, provide any material that participants need to read.
Additionally, ask the participants if they have anything to add to the agenda.
Finally, a day or two before the meeting, contact members to remind them of the upcoming session and answer any questions they might have.
Set the appropriate time for the meeting
The time of day can be a factor in the success of a meeting
Topics that require creativity and focus are best placed early in the day when members are fresh and rested.
To increase efficiency, schedule meetings right before lunch or at the end of the day, when the set time for adjournment is likely to be honored.
Remember, too, that most people cannot work more than 90 minutes to two hours without a significant drop in concentration and productivity. Meetings should always be kept as short as possible while still accomplishing high-priority objectives.
Many meetings begin ten or more minutes behind schedule because of latecomers. Prior to the meeting, emphasize the importance of promptness; those who come late can be recorded as such in the meeting minutes.
Set the location
Meeting settings convey different levels of formality. An effective meeting planner needs to choose a setting carefully.
For example, holding a meeting in the general manager’s office emphasizes the importance of the topic, but such a setting may inhibit creativity and free discussion.
Seating arrangements have an impact on member participation.
Studies of physical arrangements in discussion indicate a relationship between a seating position and interaction frequency and patterns.
When individuals are seated in a circle, they tend to talk more readily to other group members.
Adversaries on a controversial subject will often choose to sit opposite one another, their allies lining up next to them on each side of the table.
If you anticipate excessive controversy on a particular agenda item, ask individuals to sit in some predetermined arrangement that will reduce the feeling of taking sides.
So now you have the basis for planning an effective business meeting.
To learn more about business meetings, read also these 2 articles: “Preparing an effective meeting in 6 essential steps” and “How to lead effective team meetings”