03/03/2010

By John Spencer, CEO, MWB Business Exchange

1. Purpose — Every meeting needs to have a specific purpose. For instance you could be brainstorming new ideas, having a progress update, making decisions or building relationships.

2. Participants — Some meetings, such as ones where decisions need to be made, may need to be open only to very specific members of staff. Brainstorms, on the other hand, can often benefit from having more people attending in order to stimulate different ideas; while sales meetings will usually involve external participants.

3. Timing — Some people work best in the morning, so you could hold a meeting first thing when people arrive in the office, however other people need a little while to get into the swing of things before they become most creative and decisive so a later meeting might be better.

4. Location — Many people immediately assume that a meeting will be held in one of the organisation’s normal offices, but it is worth considering alternative places. Look around for the best venue, whether in a break-out area, another office block or in a public space.

5. Room Decoration — The way that a room is decorated has a huge effect on people’s mood and productivity, even though they will rarely be conscious of this. It might be worth putting up some relevant images on the walls or words of inspiration.

6. Getting Started — The first thing that needs to happen in any meeting is to make sure that all the attendees know each other, as people are often reluctant to voice opinions and thoughts in front of people they do now know. This is also a chance for the person running the meeting to make it clear that they are in charge as they will know everybody present and can make the introductions. They will also then need to run through the objectives for the meeting and make sure that everybody has a copy of the agenda.

7. Discussion — Make sure that everybody is able to contribute to the discussions, and make sure that everybody’s point of view, from the most junior member to any directors or board members, is considered and documented. Whoever is running the meeting will need to use their judgement about when to move discussions on to the next topic, always referring back to the purpose of the meeting.

8. Closing the Meeting — Once it is clear that the meeting is coming to an end the person in charge will need to summarise any decisions that have been made verbally, and quickly run through any immediate action points.

9. Documentation — Whoever was allocated to record the details of the meeting will need to write everything up as soon as possible after the meeting so that important details are not forgotten.

10. Follow-Up — Have a debrief to consider how successful the meeting was and what you can learn for next time. This is also a good time to think about whether it is necessary to have a follow-up meeting for all or some of the participants, and to start planning this.

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