Business Articles - On the Job

How to Hold an Effective Meeting

We all strive to become more efficient and effective in our jobs but much of our time is wasted due to inefficiency, including time spent holding and attending employee meetings, vendor meetings, subcontractor meetings and of course customer meetings. However, meetings are important to our businesses and can offer valuable information when things are communicated effectively. But what happens too often is there not a plan or thought to the process of running a meeting, which leads to inefficient uses of time. This article will discuss how to hold an effective meeting that maximizes all attendees time.

Why should we hold meetings?

  1. People need to communicate with each other -- You need a policy for employee attendance ... you want your vendor to deliver your materials in a different way ... you want a potential client to buy your services

  2. The creative dynamics of a group can develop new alternatives and solutions -- you need to work out a new way to get a job done; The client has a problem and you want the job

  3. Addressing a problem may require the knowledge and experience of several people to get it right -- you want to get to your subcontractor to work on your project, but he is busy with another project

  4. When group meetings work well, people will work better when they get back at work. The subcontractor knows what to do ... the client is ready for you when you arrive

Of course, when meetings don't work well these are the possible outcomes ... and I am pretty sure you don't want this.

  1. People are frustrated because it was such a waste of their time. -- You didn't make the sale and the client still has a problem. Employees still don't get it. No one is ready on time.
  2. They take their frustration back to work and complain to each other which doubles the lack of productivity. -- Nothing happened at the meeting. Less happens back on the job.
  3. The unresolved conflicts spill over into other parts of the business as people take it out on others, people bicker about whose fault it was when things go wrong
  4. The work has to be done over, because it wasn't done right the first time.

So what should be done?

  • Prepare and send out an agenda in advance. Only invite those people who need to be there. If you are talking to a client, let them know exactly what you plan to do.

  • Start on time - Show respect for people in attendance and the value of their time
  • Review the agenda including how much time will spent on each item and the specific objectives and results you want to achieve. Limit the meeting. After a while people stop paying attention.

  • Review the ground rules of the meeting including how long one person is allowed to speak. Nothing is worse than the pontificator who takes all the time and sucks the air out of the room. Don't let one employee dominate the entire discussion.

  • Review action items from the previous meeting. Who was supposed to accomplish what?

  • Set clear time limits for the meeting length. End the meeting when it is scheduled to end. If you have to extend it, ask permission to continue from everyone. Don't assume you can command their time. This is especially true with outside people like vendors and clients.

  • One meeting at a time. Do not allow several topics to be discussed at the same time by different groups within the room. It's rude. Nothing gets done.

  • Get everyone involved. If they are not participating, maybe they shouldn't be there in the first place. Get everyone's buy-in who will be implementing the solution.

  • At the end of the meeting, agree on what we accomplished and what the next steps are. Summarize what everyone will be doing. This is true when dealing with clients, vendors, and employees.

  • Write it down. These next steps become the agenda for the next meeting. Distribute the notes immediately with the next date and time clearly stated. Keep everyone informed and accountable.

Six human tendencies that work against a meeting of the minds.

  1. People resist change and are cautious about exchanging their ideas. So ask people what they think.

  2. The inner thoughts of the listener tend to draw their mind away from the conversation at hand. Even the most attentive listener tunes out at least one second every ten seconds. Those blank moments can lead to vast misunderstandings and errors in communications. Don't assume everyone heard you. Summarize for understanding.

  3. People often start talking before their ideas have been clearly formed. As a result, their thoughts can change direction and confuse those around them. Think what you want to say before you speak.

  4. People hear what they want to hear, and do not necessarily face all the facts presented to them. Keep an open mind to even the most outrageous suggestions. Maybe there is a kernel of an idea that can be grown into something worthwhile. Don't shoot down ideas without thinking them through.

  5. The speaker assumes a lot about what the other person knows. Are you using jargon? Review all the facts before you start working on the solutions.

  6. People withhold information about what they are thinking and what they know under the impression the less others know the better. There can be hidden agendas that are not apparent to the rest of the audience. Be aware of the games that people play.

Meetings are very expensive especially if they are unproductive. They can produce great results if you plan them properly. Like any tool, you need to teach yourself the art of running a meeting. Don't accept the premise that nothing can be changed. Anytime you meet with someone it is a meeting. Plan out what you want to accomplish. Get the other people involved and a part of the solution. Summarize and write down what needs to get done. Finally you can run a meeting that works. Everyone who attends will be thankful ... clients, employees, and vendors.

By Doug Duncan
Your HR Solutions, Inc.

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