Top 10 Tips To A Better Business Meeting

by Doug Smith, President, The Woodhaven Group 

One of the best ways to increase business cash flow is to improve productivity in the day-to-day operations of your company.

Unfortunately, for most businesses one of the least productive events is the meeting.  We all attend meetings.  Some of us have multiple meetings every day.  I believe it is safe to say that most of us would agree that a lot of our meetings are unproductive.  An unproductive disorganized meeting is a waste of time.  And time is money.

Here are 10 ways to improve the meetings in your company:

  1. Hold fewer meetings.  Can a weekly meeting be held every other week instead?  Can 2 meetings be consolidated into one?  If 2 meetings per week could be eliminated that were attended by 5 individuals, that would free up over 500 man hours per year.  Could those hours be put to better use?  Don’t get in the habit of holding a meeting for the sake of holding a meeting.
  2. Distribute an agenda prior to each meeting.  The agenda needs to clearly identify each topic to be discussed.  List the time allocated to the topic and who is responsible for leading the discussion on the topic.  This assigns accountability for a portion of the meeting to different participants.  It also allows others to prepare questions or comments on the topics to be discussed. 
  3. Have a set starting time and a set ending time.  This is mandatory and allows everyone to organize their day around the meeting.  Nothing kills morale quicker than drawn out meetings.  The overriding message that comes out of long meetings is that the company is disorganized.  A characteristic of legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden that all his players and coaches appreciated was that practices would start and end on time.  If he could do it so can you.  If you only take away one suggestion on improving your meetings let it be this one.
  4. Identify who needs to be at the meeting and eliminate everyone else.  Do you really need assistants or multiple managers from the same department in attendance?  I have found one positive result of smaller meetings is more active participation by those in attendance.
  5. The chair of the meeting  should spend the last few minutes summarizing the takeaways from the meeting.  This communicates that there really was a purpose to the meeting and allows those in attendance to deliver a consistent message back to those in their departments.  Without an organized summary the chair runs the risk of each participant communicating their own interpretations of what transpired.  To reinforce the importance of the conclusions coming out of the meeting, a follow-up email summarizing the key points should be distributed to all participants within 24 hours of the conclusion of the meeting.
  6. As part of the summary,  assign responsibility for specific actions at the end of the meeting.  This designates accountability to certain individuals and reinforces that the purpose of the meeting is to achieve results.  It also creates an expectation that the person assigned the action is to report their steps taken at the next meeting.  Future meeting agendas are also created by doing this.
  7. Everyone should review notes and summaries from prior meetings and come prepared to contribute.  An effective meeting should be a two-way street.  If a participant is not prepared and silently sits there then why do they need to be at the meeting?
  8. All electronic devices need to be turned off or eliminated.  The priority must be on the agenda and presenter.  There should be no texting to the person across the table editorializing about the comments just made.  The chair of the meeting must enforce what should be a hard and fast rule.
  9. The chair needs to make sure all attendees participate in the meeting.  First of all, everyone’s contribution is needed for the agenda to be successful.  Secondly, if participants know they will be called upon to contribute it will maintain everyone’s focus and assure the energy level is high.
  10. A completely different type of meeting may be held that is different from those discussed above.  If there is a small group that needs to meet daily at the beginning of a shift, consider holding a stand up meeting.  This type is literally held standing up (no chairs allowed).  It is informal but still needs structure.  Generally, a quick snapshot of 3 topics are covered: 1) a quick review of yesterday’s results, 2) any goals set for today, and 3) any pressing issues.  If a major issue comes up then finish addressing it after this meeting is finished.  The length should be 5-10 minutes and always finish on a high energy note.  I used this approach with a small group in a manufacturing plant and it was extremely successful in increasing output.  At once we saw hourly factory workers taking ownership of the results of their shift.   

If you need to increase the business  cash flow of your company start by holding more productive meetings.

The result will be a more energized, focused, and appreciative employee group.

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