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The Final Word by Helen Roush

I hate bad business meetings. The kind that drag on forever, it seems, have no real point and accomplish absolutely nothing at the conclusion. I have attended some very bad business meetings in my days.

Have you ever attended a business meeting that seemed to go on forever, seemed pointless or boring? Have you ever attended a meeting that became a free for all or turned into nothing more than a “gripe session?" Have you ever seen a business meeting less controlled than an elementary school recess or where personal attacks broke out?

At a company I previously worked for, the business meetings were terrible, to say the least. The leader was not much of a leader and the meetings were not structured. People were not punctual and those who arrived on time sat and either made small talk or sat and gossiped until everyone was present. Discussions went off topic and time was spent talking about non-relevant issues. The leader of said meetings was not effective at keeping the meeting on task, sometimes I still wonder why some of the meetings were even called.  The agendas, when actually used, were not very detailed and were rarely followed. Personal attacks were sometimes made against others not present. After leaving these meetings, I was almost always left with a feeling that nothing was accomplished, other than a complete waste of my time, and a waste of company money. Poorly run meetings can cost companies money, loss of production, can cause discord, and lower morale.

An effectively run meeting is imperative in communications and serves a useful purpose. Meetings can be empowering, are a great way to communicate, and should be morale boosting. Meetings should accomplish something at the conclusion. The purpose of meetings should ultimately be to spin the invoice printer.

Prior to requesting a meeting, you should make certain that the work done in said meeting merits the time and resources.

An effectively run meeting should have an agenda, and the agenda should be adhered to. The agenda should not only be organized, but also prioritized. The meeting leaders and participants need to actively work to keep the meeting focused on the agenda. Further, the leaders and participants should be prepared for the meeting. The agenda should be distributed in advance. The meeting leader should think in advance what should be accomplished from the meeting.

An effectively run meeting should hold to an appointed start and end time. Do not let the meeting run over. The meeting should run efficiently.  Do not wait for late participants to arrive before starting the meeting. Start it at the set time. Those who are late can “catch up.”

Only the right people should be in attendance. Think in advance, who needs to attend the meeting for it to be successful? If the purpose of the meeting to solve a challenge, the participants should come prepared with practical solutions, and provide real discussions concerning their proposed solutions. If the purpose of the meeting is to discuss an ongoing project, the participants should summarize the progress to date and circulate status reports to the rest of the group and discuss the plans going forward with the project.

Participants in the meeting should actively listen to the discussion going on, and should participate in the meeting.  If certain participants aren’t participating, call them out and ask for their thoughts. For instance, like a college lecture class where the professor asks students questions.

After the meeting, a summary should be prepared and forwarded to all participants and others with vested interests. The summary is a record of what was accomplished, together with assigned responsibilities moving forward.  It is imperative to have a written record of what had taken place, together with a list of actions that certain individuals have agreed to undertake.  Assign someone to take notes during the meeting and prepare a written summary.

My current employer conducts meetings the right way, holds everyone to a higher standard, and I am thankful that attending business meetings now are effective, efficient and problem solving.

An effectively run meeting can save time, money and help spin the invoice printer.

Helen Roush is Vice President, Communications Sciences at Paperitalo Publications. She can be reached by email at helen.roush@taii.com.


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