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If you’re just about to start a business for the first time, the whole process is probably fairly new to you, including aspects like running a business meeting. You may have experienced business meetings throughout your career that you found very helpful, but you have probably also experienced some that you thought didn’t accomplish very much.
When starting your own business, you want to make sure you have the basics of running a good business meeting down. Each of your employees will be different, and they’ll likely have different work and communication styles, too. Knowing those styles can help you run your meetings more smoothly, and in turn, improve your small business management skills. But that’s just one of the actions you can take to help make your meetings run more smoothly. We’ll go over how to have a business meeting and the ways to make your business meetings more effective below.
A business meeting is a great time for employees at any level of your company to get together. There are plenty of different types of business meetings and each one has its own goal as well. A short, weekly morning meeting will obviously have different objectives than a quarterly company-wide update meeting.
While any meeting involving more than one person at your business could be considered a business meeting, usually the term “business meeting” refers to a gathering of more than two people. Remember, the meetings don’t necessarily have to happen in a physical space. With phone systems and video calling—along with the ability some employees have to work remotely—meetings can now be virtual, or partially virtual.
Some types of business meetings are:
No matter how many people are expected to attend the meeting or how much ground you plan to cover, it’s good to have a plan or agenda for your meeting.
Before you have a business meeting, you want to set an agenda and share a preview of that with those who will be attending, just so they know how to prepare and what to expect. Your agenda should cover at least an outline of the meeting and can help you answer the question, “Does this need a meeting?”
Sometimes the information you want to share in the meeting can be conveyed via email quickly and easily without pulling everyone into a meeting. Planning an agenda will help you avoid wasting company time with smaller meetings. But if your agenda requires discussing, say, a proposal that might affect certain departments, then a meeting might be just what you need to maintain a healthy company culture. Make sure that when people leave the meeting, they know why they were there and what they learned from it.
When people know what to expect of the meeting, they know what questions they might want to ask, or what information they might want to bring. It can also help them prioritize their day for productivity and help them be prepared.
When writing your agenda ahead of the meeting, you should make the initial objective clear. That objective, or objectives, should be spelled out for you and those attending, as should the level of participation you expect from others attending. Some can end there, but others might require more detail.
For example, if you’re having a large meeting about company growth for the last month, laying out an agenda with time for introductions, an outline of documents to be reviewed, and links to each of those documents can help give your meeting more structure.
Decide how you want to structure the meeting: Ideally you’ll want to take a few minutes to give a brief overview of the meeting, and then dive into the specifics. This may involve having a few people make smaller presentations on specific topics, or the meeting leader going through the latest statistics or metrics from the last couple of months at the company.
When creating your agenda, try to answer the five basic Ws: who, what, where, when, and why. Those basic questions should let your employees know who will be attending and presenting, what they need to know, where and when the meeting will be, and why it’s happening.
If you’re expecting or want questions, make sure you clearly label a time or several times in the agenda for them. Try to share your business meeting agenda with everyone at least one business day before the meeting, so everyone will be on the same page.
Here are some of the top tips to keep in mind—beyond creating an agenda—for running an effective business meeting.
You want to make sure there’s a clear leader for the meeting—this is probably you if you’re the one who came up with the agenda. When there’s one person running the meeting, it will be clear who starts it and ends it, as well as who can indicate that it’s someone else’s turn to talk.
This doesn’t mean that person will be the only one to talk. If it’s a team meeting, many people might present about their smaller teams or roles to share more specific information that you as a leader might not be an expert on.
You may want to delegate other responsibilities, like note-taking and time-keeping to increase engagement, and allow you to focus on the tasks at hand.
Choose a time that works for everyone who should be in attendance, giving priority to the most important people. There are plenty of free tools out there to help you manage scheduling, like Doodle or Find-a-Time. If it’s a regularly-occurring meeting this might be less important, because people will likely have already carved out that time.
You should also consider whether you want to have the privacy of a meeting room or if a standup meeting would suffice. Other things to consider are equipment you need, if any, and which meeting room might have the technology you require for full participation.
When your employees feel respected by you, they tend to increase productivity. One simple way to communicate your respect for your employees is to be punctual anytime you’re hoping to engage them. Your time and the time of your employees is valuable, and it should be treated that way.
Unless you’re a solopreneur, you’re asking other people to take time from their day to attend the meeting. Being on time shows that you respect everyone’s time and sets a precedent for everyone to always start meetings on time. The same goes for the ending time of the meeting: It should end on schedule. Starting and ending on time—and having a set amount of time—helps to reinforce the structure of the meeting’s agenda and creates an environment where agenda items must be attended to in an efficient manner.
Your agenda is going to be your best sidekick during any meeting you’re running. If you don’t follow the agenda, there’s no point in making it in the first place. Meetings can go off the rails if there’s some hotly-contested development that warrants discussion. But your agenda will make it clear who is expected to talk when, and make sure they get the time they were allotted and that they need.
It can also be helpful so that you don’t forget anything you wanted to mention or include in the meeting. That way, you won’t get distracted from the goal of the meeting, and will be more likely to leave the meeting having obtained that goal.
More than likely, those in attendance will have some questions throughout the meeting. Some people prefer to facilitate a question and answer period after each portion of the meeting while others like to leave all of the questions until the end. Depending on the nature of the meeting and how many people are presenting or discussing, you can decide what best suits your meeting.
For example, if you have several people presenting or discussing, you might want to allow them to answer questions after they present, but before moving on to the next person. If it’s a one-on-one meeting, questions will naturally come up as you go along, and you can check in periodically by asking whether the person you’re meeting with has any questions or concerns they want to bring up.
Schedule in some time at the end of the meeting to do a quick review of everything that was discussed and to go over goals or objectives. There may be some new goals that came up during the meeting, or old ones you just want to reiterate. Both are helpful to review.
Make sure the action items are clear and simply outlined. This will make them easier for people to remember, and hopefully to accomplish. Setting clear and achievable action items and goals is also a great way to motivate employees.
Lastly, send a follow-up summary of the meeting to those who need any of the relevant information. Ideally, everyone was taking notes through the meeting but it’s always a good idea to reiterate what was said and outline any of the goals from the meeting.
Business meetings can sound lofty and there can be pressure on them to result in huge strides or accomplished goals. But really, they can be as simple as a morning coffee meeting to go over the work for the day. Those meetings can be key to keeping operations on track. Larger meetings can have great results too—while making employees feel more included and aware of business performance.
No matter how big the meeting you’re holding is, you want to make sure that it’s run effectively and goes smoothly. The key thing to do before holding your meeting is to come up with an agenda. That way you can figure out how long your meeting should last, who should be invited, and what type of forum is needed. From there you can conduct your meeting with the confidence that you have it all planned out—and you’ll be able to reach the goals of your business meeting as efficiently as possible.