Meetings are often seen by organizations to be a completely unproductive waste of time. If not conducted properly, meetings really can be a big waste of time and money. However, when conducted properly, meetings can be highly productive as a means of learning and getting work completed. In order to plan and conduct a successful business meeting, there are important rules that should be followed.
Rule #1 - Stick to the agenda
Discussions should revolve around only those subjects that are mentioned on the agenda. If the item is not on the agenda, it should not be discussed. Often times, meetings get off the intended subjects and valuable time is wasted in the process. In addition, time spent on items not incorporated into the agenda takes time away from the important items that required ample discussion and key decisions may be left unresolved.
Rule #2 - Keep meeting on schedule
Your meeting should begin on time and end on time. Do not wait for latecomers in order to start the meeting. If you do, people will constantly be late for meetings, as they know nothing of importance will be discussed until their arrival. As many people keep very busy schedules, it is not fair to people who have managed to squeeze your meeting into their calendar to have a meeting start late and run over because of others' lateness.
Rule #3 - Appoint a leader to keep the meeting on track
This rule is essential to conducting an effective and productive meeting. Key responsibilities of the facilitator are as follows: maintaining a balance of participation, making sure the agenda is followed, running the meeting and closing the meeting. The leader must begin the meeting on time, make sure the quieter participants are heard and the more aggressive participants are tempered and facilitate communication between all participants in general. The role of the leader is a most important one and can be the determining factor as to whether a meeting meets all of its intended purposes or simply winds up being another wasteful meeting.
Rule #4 - Have an effective agenda
The structure of the agenda is also of key importance to conducting a successful meeting. The structure of today's meetings should tend to move away from the traditional system of minutes, old business, new business then miscellaneous business. Instead, an agenda should follow these guidelines: minutes, announcements, less difficult items, most difficult items, break, discussion items and finally the easiest items.
Even if you follow all of the above rules and your meeting has been carefully planned out, things can still go awry. A common problem that often occurs in meetings is that a participant speaks too much or too little. When one speaks to much, the facilitator should inform him that others need time as well to make their points. When one speaks too little, the leader should try asking the quiet person a question directly while making eye contact in order to invoke participation in the matter.
Another problem that can affect a meeting is side conversations. Often people feel the need to continue on with a line of discussion that has been moved on from and they do not realize that they are acting in a rude and disorderly way. Facilitators should ask the person engaging in the outside conversation directly if he has anything he would like to add to the discussion for all the members to hear.
Here are some quick tips to walk away with on how to plan and conduct an effective and productive meeting: