By Guy Rigby, Head of Entrepreneurs at Smith & Williamson

Meetings are the perfect place to waste time, so if you want to be productive, make sure that yours are properly organised and relevant.

Meetings are often dominated by a standard agenda, with the same issues being discussed month after month. The same ten items roll around like baggage on a conveyor belt. Sure, there’s a place for standing items on an agenda, but they don’t generally require endless discussion, especially if meeting papers have been circulated in advance. Try tabling these items and only discuss them if attendees have particular issues to raise. Report by exception rather than by rote.

Having covered the basic business of the meeting, always try to include fresh items for discussion. It’s best to try to get to these before the meeting is exhausted or out of time, so the chairman should set a brisk pace.

Here are some tips on how to maximise the effectiveness of your meetings:

- Use meetings constructively and use the time effectively. Get the issues on the table but minimise the time spent solving problems as this can be done elsewhere between the few people affected.

- Control the agenda. Consider the objective of every meeting. What do you hope to get out of it and why?

- Minimise box ticking and the listing and reporting of results and minutes. People should have read these, so only discuss the matters arising, rather than reinventing the wheel. Instead, use the opportunity to maximise action points that will drive the company forward.

- Keep it simple. Don’t be afraid to ask silly questions. If you can’t get a straight answer, carry on asking. Don't be bamboozled by science, technology or numbers. Try to keep the information simple, so that everybody understands what's going on.

- Document your meetings. Documenting meetings is essential for a host of important reasons. In some cases these will be required to demonstrate compliance with regulations, but at the very least there will be action points requiring follow up.

- Take meetings seriously. Meetings are held for a purpose, which is why they need to be well planned, executed and recorded.

At the end of the day, some meetings will be more successful than others, just as some organisations will be better managed than others. As management guru Peter Drucker said, organisations are “complex human systems” which explains why, in order to manage a successful organisation, you need to look at the people you employ and manage the interaction between them.

This is an edited extract from Guy Rigby’s book, From Vision to Exit: The Entrepreneurs’ Guide to Building and Selling a Business, available from Amazon and in all good book shops now.

For further information please contact Guy Rigby on 020 7131 8213 or email guy.rigby@smith.williamson.co.uk.

By necessity this briefing can only provide a short overview and it is essential to seek professional advice before applying the contents of this article. No responsibility can be taken for any loss arising from action taken or refrained from on the basis of this publication. Article correct at time of writing.

Smith & Williamson Limited
Regulated by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales for a range of investment business activities. A member of Nexia International.

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