10 Guidelines for Productive and Effective Business Meetings

Business meetings have a way of going forever. It is easy for business partners and associates to turn business meetings into a social one. As the initiator of the meeting, it is your responsibility to make sure it is productive and time efficient. Business people are generally busy, and keeping your meetings short and sweet is a managerial feat that will be appreciated by your business partners and associates.

Here are ten important business meeting guidelines for increased productivity and efficacy.  

1.       Limit your invites

Before sending the invites, review your list of attendees. It is easier to keep the meeting focused and productive with a smaller number of people attending. It is also easier to organize the meeting with fewer schedules to match. Make sure to properly identify attendees with their position or company, e.g. John Smith, Sales Manager, OK Homes Inc., to avoid confusion and people asking who is who. Ask attendees to confirm meeting invites.

2.       Assign a meeting secretary

Have someone to write down the minutes of the meeting. Keeping records of the discussion is an important aspect of business meetings. If you do not have a company secretary, assign one of the attendees to take down notes. The secretary or the leader of the meeting will also be responsible for writing the formal minutes and sending it to the attendees.

3.       Plan a specific agenda

Your meeting agenda should be specific cohesive. Set a specific time for each activity. Include short opening and closing talk, time to hear reactions or suggestions from the attendees, and a short open discussion. Be vigilant of your timeline, discussions can easily go out of hand. Have a deadline for each topic or activity.

4.       Send a pre-meeting overview

The pre-meeting email is an important factor of productive and efficient meetings. It should include the agenda, topics for discussion, list of attendees, and the time, date, and location of the meeting. Also attach relevant documents. Sending the email will prepare all the attendees for the meeting. They will know what to expect and come into the meeting prepared. This also allows attendees to raise suggestions or other topics that need to be included in the meeting.

5.       Make it as short as possible

If everything is prepared and everyone attending is aware and ready, full business meetings can be as short as 15 minutes. Shorter meetings are more productive. It forces people to stay on the topic. Your busy business partners are more likely to attend shorter meetings and will appreciate your consideration of their schedule.

6.       Set time for breaks

This rule applies to longer meetings, or those scheduled for two hours or longer. Short breaks give attendees to stretch their legs, run to the bathroom, or quickly check emails or phones. You can also use breaks to ease tension or as a separator between important topics. A ten-minute break is ideal, and make sure everyone adheres to the schedule.

7.       Meet outside the office

Heard of power lunch meetings? Business meetings don’t have to be in your boardroom or meeting room. If you don’t need the facilities – projector, computers, and such, have the meeting elsewhere. The change of scene can really be stimulating, setting the right tone for the meet up. Lunch, coffee breaks, or power walk discussions are great alternatives to formal sit-down meetings.

8.       Park new topics not on the agenda

New topics are most like to crop up during meetings. These can be relevant to the agenda or totally non-business related. Regardless of its relevance, avoid discussing topics that are not on the agenda. The proper way to handle relevant and important issues is to use the parking-lot method. Take note of the issue, assign action items to it, and schedule another meeting to discuss it further.

9.       Formally open and close meetings

As the leader or initiator of the meeting, you are expected to set the tone for the meeting. The attendees will be waiting for your cues. Open the meeting with a short address. You can include a quick run through the agenda, highlight the main topics, and set the meeting rules. To close the meeting, you can summarise what have been discussed, repeat any action items, and thank the attendees for coming.

10.   Send minutes to all attendees

The minutes of the meeting is a detailed documentation of everything that happened and discussed in the meeting. Every business meeting should be documented. The secretary or the initiator of the meeting should type up the minutes of the meeting. It should be emailed or mailed out to the attendees for confirmation. Attendees can react or email back to correct any error or misunderstanding in the minutes. The non-reaction of attendees to the sent minutes of the meeting can be construed as agreement with all that was recorded. Send out the minutes soon after the meeting, ideally within the next business day.