The Business Meeting Revisited – Waste of Time or Key Strategic Tool?

Few words bring such strong negative reactions as ‘business meeting’. As companies analyze their meeting times against results they often throw up their hands in disgust and conclude that meetings are a waste of time and of no use. Not so fast. While it is true that not having a meeting may be better than having a bad meeting, it does not follow that the business meeting itself is to blame. No matter how good the idea, if those that execute the plan fail then the project itself fails.

‘It’s a bother, it’s a pain, so little gets done, same old stuff, nothing ever happens, it’s always a bore, it lasts too long, and all we do is sit and listen to one or two people drone on about the company’s woes.’ Whine, whine, whine. Case closed.

And that’s the most difficult part; overcoming apathy and boredom from employees and managers that are jaded after continued exposure to bad meetings. It makes starting a meeting difficult and gaining momentum from that meeting even more difficult. The best place to start is to determine what results you would like to have from the meeting. This will guide you in determining the agenda.

The agenda should be written with a time allotted to each item. Meetings should rarely go over an hour especially if they start on time. Start exactly on time and you will ensure promptness at the next meeting. After each agenda item put the person responsible for reporting or moderating that agenda item so that someone ‘owns’ that agenda item. If you are starting business meetings make it a goal to spread the agenda items out to different meeting participants.

The first agenda item should be something light and not nuts and bolts financial. I like to bring up items such as image and attitude here. The last agenda item should be the next meeting’s time and place.

Don’t overload the agenda with too many items or too many heavy stress items if that is avoidable. If the business meeting becomes too negative it can dampen whatever enthusiasm it generates. Some agenda items can be ‘rolled’ over into the next agenda. Try to vary your agenda items for each meeting to keep the agenda fresh. That also means you should be discussing relevant and current topics.

Plan your agenda to end on an upbeat note. You really want the last impression of the meeting to be a positive one. If the meeting ends on a sour note it will leave a sour taste. If participation is important try to get each person present in the meeting to say something. This may be difficult at large meetings but in smaller groups it creates the impression of being a part of the meeting. Meeting participation can be a goal itself.

Some people tend to speak more than others so don’t let one or two people do all the talking. Especially you. It is best to have a moderator or leader. This person is responsible for opening and closing the meeting as well as making certain the agenda moves along in a timely manner.

It is possible to rotate moderators from meeting to meeting. This depends on the meeting participants, their capabilities and their willingness to participate.

Do not expect too much change too fast. It has been my experience that it might take several months of weekly meetings to reach desired results. And it is best not to create unrealistic expectations up front as they may sabotage your efforts.

It’s OK to disagree and disagreements often make for excellent meetings. As the moderator, it is your job to maintain calm and control. If everyone is yawning a good disagreement might even wake them up. After each meeting do a self-evaluation on how the meeting went. What could have done better? What went right? What did not go as expected?

And stay persistent. It is very hard to change either individual or group behavior and that’s what meetings are mostly about. Some call it behavior modification but perhaps changing the range of behaviors is more appropriate. Some call it training or education. And sometimes it’s art and sometimes it’s science but seldom is it predictable.

Often it doesn’t always work as planned. If you have a bad meeting shrug it off and see how you can improve the next one. Also try to stay in the right frame of mind and perspective so you don’t get frustrated too quickly.

There is no right or wrong way to have a meeting; just ways that make meetings more effective. The best strategy to make your meeting effective is to open it up, do what it takes to get participation and work through a relevant and prioritized agenda. Go with your gut and don’t be afraid of taking small risks to keep momentum. Even if you flop folks will see you are sincere and good things will happen.

The results just might surprise you.

Leading the Effective Business Meeting

In daily life, sometimes we can find the business meetings which are digressive of the main point. Because of many aspects, the business meeting is not effective. Before holding any meeting, you should consider to call the meeting when the condition is critical to have the meeting. You also need to structure it well so the meeting can meet its goal.

Before holding a meeting, you should prepare some things such as the business books, flip charts, overhead projectors, personal organizers, notebook papers, spiral notebooks, slide projectors, and the transparencies.

The first thing you should do is deciding whether the meeting is important or not. It is related to the issue whether the issue is involved to the individual or the conference call. You also need to determine the person who needs to come to the meeting. It is better for you to keep the number of the attendees in small number. The main reason is having the large meeting is not as effective as having the small meeting. By this way, the discussion of the meeting can be more focused.

To make the meeting is more effective, you should set the definite starting and stopping time. During the meeting, one of the attendees should prepare the agenda. Remember to explain the purpose of the meeting. If you have many goals, you should decide which goal has the command priority. Help the attendees understand more about the meeting progress by using the visual aids like the charts, slides, and the handouts. It is better for you to begin the meeting in the designated time. You should start the meeting whether everyone is present or not.

You can start off the meeting directly to the point. You also need to allocate the time for each issue. Moving through issues will let the discussion but discouraging digression or the repetition. It is recommended for you to use the timer.

If the debate or the issue runs overtime, you need to postpone the discussion until the end of the meeting. Ensure that you cover the other issues on the agenda.

The Purpose of Business Meetings

The current situation and investigation of the GSA’s Las Vegas event has many people up in arms about the investment that companies, associations, and governmental agencies make on hosting business meetings. People who question the purpose and power of business meetings are rattling the cage and making noise just as they did after “Muffin-Gate” in 2011 (the over hyped and twisted story that a DOJ paid $16 per muffin at a meeting coffee break). But there is more to meetings than the costs to produce a meaningful conference.

While it can sound expensive, the realities of hosting events do cost money. Hotels, meals, transportation, professional speakers, entertainment, and other necessary items have associated bills. But when a meeting becomes a “happening” there is value created. Looking at pieces of the puzzle separately can cause some to misinterpret the real power that happens when people gather together. Throughout history man has collected in groups to share the best ideas, learn, grow, entertain, have fun, and get inspired for the future.

Of course there are those who abuse the system, make poor spending decisions, and waste money. I am not condoning bad behavior. Meetings are not something you just “do”… as you need trained professionals to help you organize or you will fall prey to all sorts of mistakes. Too many jump in thinking “how hard can it be?” and wing-it in their planning. A conference has so many parts that you should never expect the right results without the proper planning and experience.

Some people think that the meetings industry is dead. I spoke to one person recently who said she never goes to business meetings, and thus was convinced that conferences were dying. NOT TRUE. Many business meetings are growing and new conferences spring up daily around the world. The meetings industry is a multi-billion dollar business that employs over 1.7 million people in the United States.

The problem with all the discussion about meetings is there is not a clear understanding of the purpose of business gatherings. If you talk to different people you will get different answers. Some think meetings exits to educate. Others to entertain. Networking opportunities are regularly cited as a reason to attend. There are those that believe meetings a perk, while just as many view them as an obligation. Associations can acquire much of their income from conferences and at the same time other companies and agencies have them as expenses.

Every meeting that is planned can have different purposes (even meetings that are put on by the same organization).

Since there is not a single purpose for business meetings there will always be controversy as people tend to only look at things the way they want to see them. Those who want to see meetings as expensive can make that argument, but if you have ever been to a conference where you made a connection that changed the direction of your career, or learned something that inspired you to achieve more… then you know why there will always be business meetings.

All opportunities come from people, and bringing groups together is a way to create more opportunities.

I believe meetings exist for many of reasons, but too often even the organizers cannot tell you the clear purpose. Working to appeal to a variety of people can leave an event too vanilla to become spectacular to anyone. If you cannot clearly articulate the reason to host the meeting, why can you expect attendees to understand the purpose?

Knowing the answer to “why” will make the event better for everyone!

What was the last meeting you attended and why was it great? (or why was it blah?).