I was sitting with a friend the other day when we started talking about how conversations lead nowhere during business meetings, especially when a critical decision needs to be made.
It is a typical situation. There is a crisis, a decision needs to be made, a meeting is called and conversation begins on a different tangent and goes off in a completely different direction. Very soon opinions begin to clash and everyone goes back from the meeting with a different agenda point.
As a result of unorganized meetings, misunderstandings occur, productivity gets affected and time is wasted.
For every business professional, it is important to steer their discussions to a meaningful end. And while this does not happen frequently, there are simple ways to achieve a smoother stream of work communication.
Today we are talking about how we can have effective discussions. Take note of these pointers and your meetings are sure to turn out fruitful.
Prepare agenda points
It may seem like you have everything on the tip of your fingers. And you have done it so many times that you don’t really need to work on agenda points. It may be true. But keep in mind that if you are inviting other members of your team, especially cross functional teams that — it is possible and also likely, they are not aware of where you are coming from.
They may not even understand the need for the meeting – or – have the time to research on your meeting’s subject. Just think about it. Would you like to go to such a meeting.
So then take a few minutes. Prepare simple and easy to understand agenda points. Set the precedence for the meeting. Prepare everyone for an organized discussion, by circulating these agenda points in an email to all participants.
Arrive in time
It is very easy to begin to take meetings for granted as we move from one to another. But it is never good for business productivity. Always be in time for your meeting and make sure that you have confirmation from all your team members. Your being in time will create a perception that other people cannot be late either.
So take your meeting seriously so that others can follow suit.
Introduce yourself and your meeting agenda
It is possible that people already know you and you can skip this step but in any case, introduce yourself and your project. Tell everyone how this meeting’s outcome affects the project and what kind of support is required from their end.
Organize your time
Okay, so you have made your agenda points, you have clarity on what you want to discuss and you have shared it with the team. You have arrived in time and made introductions. Now make room for everyone in your meeting schedule.
If its an hour long meeting, someone or the other is bound to be late so it is possible that you may have to start without some members. You need to know how much are you willing to wait. If it is an important decision, wait no more than five minutes.
Give 10 minutes to yourself for a briefing and to answer questions. Give twenty minutes to the discussion and summarize your discussion in the next ten minutes. In the last minutes of your hour, assign tasks, get commitment on timelines from your meeting participants and note these down.
Follow your agenda points
Now is the time when your agenda points will become your bible for this meeting. You need to steer your discussion to the next agenda point. It is easy for people to get distracted.
Request everyone to come back to the topic as soon as you realize that the discussion is going off-track.
This is the most important part of your meeting where you will either get the result you seek or will have to hunt after it in a series of follow-up meetings.
So keep the focus on the topic at hand and make suggestions when people wander off in irrelevant directions.
Know when to stop
As the leader of the meeting, you need to know when a decision has been made and most are in agreement. Do not over discuss.
That always creates more confusion. So monitor the discussion and repeat the decision in front of everyone when you can see that the logic is beginning to make sense. Close the loop and move on to the assignments when your agenda points have received a consensus from meeting participants.
Define roles and timelines
Announce the decision and write it down. Then announce the plan of action on what needs to be done next and take responsibility for it.
Once you have done that then ask everyone to share what and how can they contribute towards the goal.
Write down each assignment and ask for a timeline. Once you have this information, your meeting is more or less over. Congratulations.
Circulate minutes of the meeting
It’s not over till it is. So make sure the decision is circulated to everyone, assignments are confirmed and timelines are shared.
This will close the loop on your meeting and you will only have to follow up on the action points.
You have just completed your meeting with great finesse and the results you needed. Do make a note of these pointers before you reach out with a meeting invite next time. Best of luck!
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