Are business meetings a regular aspect of work for you? They are for many people, and it’s rare for anyone to enjoy them. They’d be so much more bearable if they were consistently productive. Instead, business meetings have a reputation for being tedious, time-consuming, and often unnecessary.
The question now is: how do you make the most out of your business meetings? They’re necessary for whatever project you are working on and fostering communication, but there are right and wrong ways to approach them. Here are a few pieces of advice for making your meetings as productive as possible:
Decide on a meeting format
If a meeting is scheduled and it’s your responsibility to facilitate it, determine the meeting’s style. Yes, there is more than one. Decide on the style based on the nature of the business at hand. One method is your basic information-sharing format in which information is directed from one person to an audience, like a presentation. This kind of meeting should leverage lots of visuals to keep everyone’s attention. It is also best if this kind of meeting is short: communicate what you need to clearly and concisely, and then send people on their way.
Your meeting might not be to inform your bosses, colleagues, or employees, though—you might need to make a decision together. In this scenario, facilitate the conversation so that everyone has a voice and no one is talking over each other.
Determine the criteria of the decision you need to make, how soon you need to make it, evaluate possible options, and try to arrive at a conclusion with practical decision-making methods. On a related note, some meetings are brainstorming sessions that don’t need to come to a final resolution. Still, structure the meeting in such a way that everyone has plenty of opportunities to speak, and people can make comments without judgments.
Plan everything ahead
Plan the meeting ahead of time—as much as you can, anyway. Do your homework and educate yourself about who will be participating in the conference. Craft an agenda that will help the group achieve the meeting’s goals. This agenda does not have to be rigid—it’s necessary to have some flexibility to accommodate productive discussions—but having an outline of topics you wish to discuss and approximately how long they will take will help you keep the meeting on track.
Use a service if you are conference calling
Not every meeting is in-person, of course. Some take place over phone or video chat. If your business meeting is remote, you’ll have to approach it differently than one where everyone is physically present. Fortunately, there are useful tools to help you do this, such as conference call services.
Share the conference call number and meeting agenda with attendees well in advance. Tell them what platform you are using, which may offer one-click access features and video capabilities. Some even provide moderator services—it might be useful to have an outside individual monitor the call to keep people on task and introduce them as they join.
Regardless of what kind of meeting you are overseeing or participating in, be engaging. You don’t have to put on a show, just speak with a clear, enthusiastic voice that lets audience members know you care about the topic at hand. Speak dynamically. Pay attention to your body language.
One of the reasons why business meetings have the reputation they do is because their facilitators don’t know how to capture an audience’s attention, so they become dull, and everyone misses the purpose of the agenda. Use a bit of humor to lighten the mood, be authentic, and be confident in your public speaking skills.
Encourage people to participate
Some people are inclined to speak loudly and often. Other personalities prefer to fade into the background and let the meeting pass without saying something. Be mindful of individuals who have social anxiety, but make it clear that everyone’s voice is equally important and create an environment where people are less intimidated to speak up. Ask people to share their thoughts if they are hesitant to say something or are constantly being drowned out.
Add a little variety
Don’t make all of your meetings the same, either. Shake it up. Adding some variety will prevent attendees from growing bored and foster participation. Ask participants for feedback regarding how to improve the next meeting and factor them in. They have ideas too, and you’ll be wise to listen to them.
Business meetings fall on a wide gradient of useless to productive. To make the most out of conferences, keep them on task, make them as fun as possible, and be respectful of everyone’s time. How do you try to ensure that your business meetings are as effective as possible?