How To Run A Successful Business Meeting

Having trouble getting things done at your company's business meetings? Here are some ideas for making your meetings more productive.

Do you find yourself dreading the recently announced departmental meeting? Is it because nothing seems to get done and too many meetings end up becoming time wasters?

You are not alone. Research suggests that up to half of all business meetings result in minimal productivity and are considered by participants to be of little value. Since time is money in the business world, it is important to make every minute count while on the job, including client, departmental, committee, or company-wide meetings. Here are a few tips that can help.

1. Announce meetings well in advance of the date. Two weeks' notice may give participants enough time to work the meeting into a busy schedule. If your meeting is part of an ongoing series, you may want to try and set dates for the next several months and publish a list of meeting times, especially if you must coordinate several people's varied schedules.

2. Promote meeting information via different media. For example, send an interoffice memorandum to each participant, followed by email reminders a few days before the date. You also may want to list scheduled meetings in the company calendar or newsletter. Larger organizations occasionally have an administrative assistant telephone each member with a reminder.

3. Serve refreshments. A hospitality cart with hot and cold beverages, and perhaps fruit or cookies, provides a thoughtful service to those in attendance. It is well known that offering food can draw a larger crowd of attendees.

4. Start and end at odd hours. Instead of beginning the meeting at 1:30 p.m., for example, publish the time as 1:35 p.m., which is bound to get people's attention and make them more aware of the clock.

5. Publish an orderly agenda at least a week before the meeting. List items to be covered in priority order, along with extra or discretionary items if time permits. You also may want to list desirable objectives for the meeting so attendees understand in advance what you hope to accomplish and how they should prepare to participate.

6. Attach pertinent documents, handouts, or support information to the agenda. This provides attendees an opportunity for reviewing key facts in anticipation of discussion during the meeting. You also may want to invite questions about the topic(s) ahead of time so you can be prepared in advance with necessary details.

7. During the meeting, you may want to ask for volunteers or make executive assignments to be completed by the next meeting date. Many hands make light work, and everyone can help in one way or another, whether by reserving a room, ordering refreshments, or publishing the agenda.

8. Arrange for someone to take minutes. In some cases the committee chair will do this. At other times committee members may rotate the task. Occasionally someone takes the role of secretary or an administrative assistant attends the meeting for this purpose. Distribute minutes well in advance of the next meeting so members can return revisions to the secretary for correction. The final draft can be approved the next time.

9. Encourage everyone present to speak. Shy people can share opinions by listserv if they prefer, but all should have a voice in the proceedings. You may decide to have the secretary take minutes without noting individual responses to help protect sensitive comments.


"Bob Smith suggested that bonuses be reduced."


"It was suggested that bonuses be reduced."

10. Keep files for copies of the agendas and minutes. These can be passed along to new or replacement members in the future.

Organizing a productive business meeting need not be difficult. Take a few minutes to implement suggestions like these for clear-cut results. Your staff will thank you.

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