In the Boardroom
Date: Friday, March 29, 2012, 6:00am EST
Are Your Firms Business Meetings Worth Attending?Premium content from The Business Journal - by Ruth Kinzey, Contributing writer
Too long. Not organized. No clear purpose. Doesn’t start on time. Boring. Sound like meetings you’ve attended?
Whether you are in middle management, own a business, sit on a board of directors or have a corner office in the executive suite, it’s likely you find yourself dreading an upcoming meeting for these reasons. And while you may not be able to control that particular meeting, you can control the meetings you lead. So, how do you ensure yours are viewed as positive opportunities rather than a waste of time? Have a purpose. The most important question to ask when planning a meeting is: “It is necessary?” If you can accomplish the same goal with a couple of telephone calls or an email, you may not need to meet in person or conduct a teleconference. Next, know what you want to achieve or what the goal of the meeting is.
Plan. Identifying a time and location likely to be convenient for participants will help attendance. Then, check room logistics, such as size, to ensure it will be a comfortable setting. If technology is to be used, be sure you have everything ordered and allow time for set up and testing. Don’t assume there is a working speaker phone or projector. Be sure of it.
Consider the seating arrangement. Is this a round table discussion? Do you need horseshoe seating to ensure presentations can be seen by all attendees? Due to the nature of the gathering, is a traditional classroom setting necessary? If conducting a teleconference, can all participants can be seen?
Review the list of attendees to confirm you have invited all necessary participants, so you can obtain relevant information, make decisions, and create an action plan or identify next steps. Although it may sound contradictory, it is equally important to be judicious in the number of attendees. Trying to be “all inclusive” can result in too large of a group to be productive. If this is the case, consider conducting one or two smaller meetings in advance. This approach may take more of your time but can ultimately be more productive.
Prepare an agenda and distribute it in advance, so your attendees can be prepared for the discussion. As you order agenda items, prioritize. Also, consider placing topics first, which are of greatest interest to the majority of the group, as you will be more likely to engage your members quickly. Finally, whether you’ve set aside an hour or 30 minutes, double check your agenda to be sure the number of subjects you intend to address is realistic for the allotted time frame.
The meeting. Start on time. Once you become known for starting late, people won’t show up on time. Consequently, you’ll waste time repeating information. Plus, by being tardy, you send a nonverbal message that this really isn’t important.
If you didn’t appoint someone to take notes prior to the session, be sure to do so at the onset of the meeting. These minutes can serve as a log of the business conducted and a record of who is assigned what tasks, including targeted completion dates. The minute taker can provide time checks as well.
Does everyone know each other? If not, take time for introductions. Conducting a meeting virtually? This step becomes even more important. If it is the first time the group has met, you might need to establish ground rules as well.
As you lead the meeting, be sure to listen. Encourage those who aren’t likely to participate to share their ideas and comments, rather than letting them be intimidated by other attendees. Push for depth of discussion on important issues. Challenge the group with questions to help resolve or manage differences of opinion and prioritize issues.
Temporarily “park” topics not related directly to the discussion. These can be covered later. Or if necessary, you can let the individual know that someone will follow up “off line.” Then, be sure this occurs.
Closing the discussion. It is essential to be sensitive to the schedules of others. Even if you didn’t cover everything as planned, be prepared to stop on time. When concluding, summarize, identify next steps and remind everyone of their assignments and the next meeting date.
Follow up. Your “meeting performance” may have demonstrated how aptly you can manage a group session. But your reputation as a leader will be further enhanced if you conduct the proper follow-up by holding people accountable for follow-through and circulate your results to appropriate personnel.
Ruth Kinzey is a corporate reputation strategist, consultant, and professional speaker. Want to hear more about a specific topic? She can be reached at (704) 763-0754.
To read some of her blogs, go to the Resource page