Meetings often waste time and have no measurable outcomes. Top executives attend meetings with sceptical attitudes and exit strategies in hand.
You may think the stakes of your small business meetings are not as high. It’s your business; you decide if a meeting matters. Yet, if you are paying staff members to attend, consider the costs.
If your 90-minute meeting costs you £750 in payroll, and £75 in snacks, while all work comes to a standstill, is it worth it? Will its results justify the cost and the loss of 90 minutes of productivity?
Here’s how to lead quality meetings for your small business.
How do you facilitate a meeting?
Effective meetings require:
- Time and people management during the meeting
- Post-meeting follow-ups
Typical meeting agendas:
- Brainstorm solutions to challenges and approaches to new opportunities. Your business has identified a problem or opportunity. Currently, you don’t know how to move forward. You need to brainstorm ideas with your team.
- Design or update a product or service. Your team has an idea. Now they need to meet to plan its execution.
- Communicate important information. Your business is growing, and new developments will impact your staff. You want to communicate these changes to your whole team at once.
- Provide a forum to receive feedback. You want to know what a group is thinking or what their current concerns are. A meeting is an opportunity to share their thoughts.
Meetings are now conducted with everyone physically in the same room or with some virtual attendees. Participants from different parts of the world and different time zones can attend meetings with online meeting solutions. A meeting is now often defined only by time, not by location. Meetings set only by time, are easier to attend, but that doesn’t mean there should be more of them.
Do you need to have a meeting?
This is the most critical question in the meeting pre-planning stage: do you need to have one? Is a group meeting (digital or physical) the best way to resolve your issue? Have you already exhausted other ways of managing your situation without success?
If you use other forms of group communication tools like email, project management platforms, and customer relationship management (CRM) or sales software, is there something a meeting can do that they can’t? Do your teams work together well with these tools?
Does your team succeed if you distribute questions, tasks or announcements to them via project-management software?
Only hold a group meeting if you believe it will provide the best solution to your current issue.
What’s your meeting topic and desired result?
Once you’ve decided to hold a meeting, define the topic of the meeting, and determine what a successful outcome would be.
Example of a meeting topic: Your manufacturing company has a resource conflict
Your company has two custom manufacturing orders for devices. Unfortunately, they have conflicting delivery dates because both orders have a particular type of custom widget (Type Z) at their cores. The dilemma is that you only have one machine that makes custom Z widgets.
Desired meeting result: Discover a way to deliver both orders on time
Create a meeting agenda
With your meeting topic and outcome defined, it’s time to create a detailed meeting agenda.
Many meeting agenda templates are available online. For example, this Classic Meeting Agenda for Microsoft Word can satisfy many small business needs.
Every meeting is different. Outline the particular steps from each meeting’s challenges to its goal. Define each part of the meeting and divide it into timed sections. Accordingly, meetings can last a few minutes to several days.
Here’s a sample agenda outline for a one-hour meeting:
- Attendee introductions: 10 mins
- Topic explanation: 10 mins
- Brainstorming: 20 mins
- Selection of the best solution: 10 mins
- Documentation of the solution and task assignment: 10 mins
During the meeting
At the actual meeting, a timer can help keep the team on track. It motivates attendees to move forward and not get distracted by non-essential details.
Ask participants to save off-topic ideas and questions for another time.
Remember that everyone differs in the way they learn and process information. If someone is struggling with a concept, ask them what they need.
Would it help to draw the concept? Organise it on sticky notes? Review it again later in writing? If you have a small team, over time, you will understand more about how they process ideas.
Challenge everyone in your meetings to share ideas. A quiet team member could have the best suggestions, though they may not like speaking to groups or in front of the boss.
Who needs to be at the meeting?
Include the smallest number of people possible. A tighter group will keep your meeting focused. If needed, you can invite more contributors to a future meeting.
In the manufacturing example, the minimum team should include:
- A team member who understands the manufacturing process as a whole
- A team member who runs the machine that creates Z widgets
- A team member who understands the clients.
Hands-off and hands-on team members often find the best solutions together.
For instance, a Type-Z machine operator knows the limits of the machine and how long it takes to clean and reset. An engineer, looking at the big picture, might find a way to vary the order of the device’s construction.
The Solution: For Company A, the Z widget will be the first part of the assembly process. For Company B, the Z widget will be the last part. Teams will be able to begin to assemble one set of devices without a Z widget. Companies A and B will receive their orders on time.
After a meeting:
- Follow-up with your meeting participants
- Find out if proposed ideas and solutions are progressing
- Determine next steps
- Be open to feedback to improve future meetings
Start with these tips. Impress your staff and prospective business partners with your well-planned, productive meetings.