Business meetings are a drag when they don’t go according to plan. In your experience, this might be more often than not. It seems that no one knows how to make a meeting flow smoothly, so everyone ends up talking over each other, there are awkward silences, people stray from relevant topics, and you end up finishing overtime.
If it’s your turn to lead a business meeting, you are understandably determined to do it differently. Your attendees will thank you for it. But the question still stands: how do you conduct an official meeting that is productive and as enjoyable (at least, not as miserable) as possible? Here are a few pieces of advice:
Make Sure The Meeting Is Necessary
You’ve probably attended a meeting in the past that took ten minutes and thought to yourself, “This could have been an email.” Don’t ask your colleagues to gather if the information you need to convey can be communicated quickly with a mass email.
Calling unnecessary meetings wastes everyone’s time and increases their frustration. If you need to hear what others think about something or relay a serious chunk of information that requires a more dynamic presentation, then that is more reason to schedule a meeting.
Plan An Agenda To Follow
No meeting should be aimless. What are you trying to use the conference to accomplish? What are your definable goals that you can steer toward? Your objectives should be as concrete as possible and distributed to invitees in advance so that everyone has time to prepare.
No meeting should be structureless, either. Create a rough outline of all the topics you intend to discuss and approximate how long it will take to cover them. This schedule should be flexible—you don’t want to cut off productive conversation just because it’s time to move on to the next subject, and you’re on the verge of something useful—but make sure it accounts for the meeting’s overall time frame.
Invite Everyone Who Needs To Be There
Invite all the people who need to hear what you have to say or lend their voice to a conversation. Don’t slight people by leaving them out. In some cases, you can send an open invitation and only make the conference mandatory for people who absolutely need to speak or hear your presentation.
Likewise, do not make the mandatory for people who do not need to attend. It’s a waste of people’s time to listen to information that is irrelevant to them (again, this is where open invitations can be practical, because it allows people who want to participate to join, just in case).
Use A Platform For Conference Calls
If your meeting is virtual, then use a platform to make it smoother instead of calling everyone manually. Conference calling services may even include moderators to help keep track of time and move the meeting at a reasonable pace. They will also provide technological solutions that make it easy for everyone to join the call and a range of template meeting invites.
Some conference calling platforms also offer video chat functionality. This option is practical for remote meetings when you need to share visuals, but participants live in different time zones. They also allow for more eye contact, similar to in-person meetings, than their audio-only counterparts.
Stay On Task
You have an agenda—so stick to it. Many meetings benefit from personal conversation before diving into the business at hand, but if meetings are a frequent occurrence for you and your colleagues, then use your discretion about side-topics. Redirect everyone back to the agenda if the conversation takes a turn in a different direction.
Eliminate as many distractions as possible. It’s already a norm for everyone to put their phones away, but be conscious about selecting a venue that isn’t near obnoxious construction noises or other inconvenient background sounds. This is especially important with conference calls because anyone can have different distractions affecting everybody else.
Facilitate The Meeting Effectively
How do you keep people on task, though? You cannot control what people say, but you can steer them back to relevant subjects if they begin to stray. Make sure people don’t talk over each other and give everyone an equal opportunity to share their thoughts. Use people’s names, too. Ask individuals directly when you want to know something.
Keep an eye on the clock and do your best to end the conference a few minutes early. People will appreciate the extra time to go to the bathroom and grab a snack, and it shows that you respect their time. Record the conversation or take notes for future reference.
There is no correct way to run a conference, but some approaches are more effective than others. How do you try to conduct official business meetings?