Part of running a successful small business means taking part in meetings. Whether you’re getting your employees together to talk about some upcoming changes within your company or you’re engaged with a group of other small business owners looking to have a mastermind session, you want your time together to be effective. Primarily, you want the meeting to serve the purpose for which it is intended.
How do you do that? By following these seven rather simple guidelines:
#1: Create an Agenda
If you don’t have a plan, or agenda, to follow, the meeting will likely lack focus and direction. This means it will be easier to get sidetracked, potentially distracting you from meeting your purpose behind getting together in the first place.
In addition to creating the agenda, make sure all attendees have it in advance so they know what will be discussed. This allows everyone to be fully prepared to talk about the issues at hand.
#2: Be Conscientious When Setting the Time and Date
Before setting the date and time that you want everyone together, think about all of the attendees and consider what would work best for them. For instance, you’ll want to avoid your employee’s most busy time of the day on the phones or with customers so that you can have their full attention with minimal disruption.
If you are getting together with members of other organizations, you may wish to send out an email to the others beforehand to see what their schedules look like. This lets you plan accordingly and set a date and time when you’re likely to have the most people show up.
#3: Maintain the Direction of the Meeting
In meetings, it isn’t that uncommon to get off task every now and then. You start discussing something and, before you know it, you’re going off in another direction, completely disregarding the agenda in front of you.
Not only does this detract from what you are trying to do with your meeting, but it is annoying to the attendees who want to take care of business and get back to whatever it is they need to do. So, if you notice that the group is getting off task, don’t be afraid to speak up and put them back on track, tabling important issues for later meetings—when they are planned in the agenda.
#4: Set Meeting Rules
Have you ever attended a meeting where someone took complete control over the meeting, hushing everyone else involved? Or, when a participant made a snide comment to another attendee, causing an awkward silence in the room?
Neither of these scenarios is productive in the meeting room, so it is best to establish clear-cut rules at the beginning of the meeting so that everyone knows what is expected and what will not be tolerated. Some examples to consider include no interrupting other attendees when they are speaking, no snide or negative comments, and anything else that may send the meeting down the wrong path.
#5: Promote Attendee Participation
When you’re at a meeting and only one or two people are doing the talking, it can suck the energy right out of the group. On the other hand, when the group is brainstorming and everyone is putting in their input, the energy is amazing, causing everyone to get excited about what lies ahead.
This is why it is so important to promote participation amongst the attendees of the meeting. Not only does it result in better output, but everyone who speaks feels as if they are vested in the outcome, making them a willing participant to the whole process, not just the meeting about it.
#6: Limit the Length of the Meeting
While it may be tempting to try to fit everything you can into one meeting session, causing it to last longer than it should might just do more harm than good. The human attention span isn’t that long, so prolonging your time together may cause some of the group to lose interest and not participate in the agenda at hand.
Ideally, you don’t want most meetings to go beyond an hour, two at the most, if at all possible. Be brief and to the point and, if you need more time, set up future dates when everyone can returned refreshed and ready to deal with more.
#7: Prepare and Distribute Meeting Minutes
How many times have you left a meeting never to have a written record of everything that was discussed? Not only can having written minutes help you if you need to look back to see what was talked about at prior get-togethers, but they also work to remind the attendees of what is required of them from that meeting forward.
For instance, if you’ve changed around some office policies, providing them in writing after discussing them at the meeting will remind your employees what you expect. And if someone was to take some action as a result of the meeting, such as in finding a new vendor for office supplies, the minutes are a gentle reminder of this, removing any potential of hearing, “What? I didn’t remember that I was supposed to do that.”
Follow these seven guidelines and your meetings will be informative, functional, and effective, which also means that they will be a success!