Every company from the largest corporation to the smallest business has meetings.
These can be inter-company meetings or meetings with outside parties. In many instances, especially with outside parties, meetings are necessary. Many inter-company meetings, however, can be avoided or at least made more productive. Make sure your meetings are not bogging down your employees and serve a productive purpose.
For every inter-company meeting, there should be a meeting leader of sorts. This is typically the person who called the meeting or the most senior member present at the meeting. It's important that the meeting leader have a clear cut agenda prior to the meeting beginning.
The meeting agenda should contain relevant points of discussion and a time-line. The time-line is critical. Each meeting should have a set time when it should be completed, and every effort should be made to keep the meeting within the time boundaries.
Prior to the meeting, the meeting leader should e-mail the other participants with the meeting agenda and possible points of discussions. The idea is that everyone attending the meeting should be prepared and ready once the meeting begins. This eliminates a lot of questions and reduces the overall time the meeting will take.
The meeting leader should be in charge of keeping everyone on track. Meetings can easily get off-track and while some of the off-track discussion can be great topics, they should be reserved for another time.
The meeting leader needs to keep everyone on board with the meeting agenda and the topic at hand. Other relevant points that are brought up should be noted, and saved for another discussion.
I consulted for a company that had a chronic problem with meetings. The problem began with the CEO, who was constantly holding meetings with her direct employees. These meeting would last for hours, and keep senior management out of the loop and not completing their job. The rest of the company had constant meetings as well. These meetings were informal and would easily get off topic.
There was a Sales and Operations Planning meeting (a necessary meeting in business) that meant once and week and had nearly 20 employees present. This meeting would sometimes go on for hours, and it was difficult to comprehend what was being accomplished. During this time, there were tons of labor dollars being spent.
In addition to the rest of the company that was not in the meeting suffered because of the lack of employees and supervisors.
After meeting with the CEO to discuss the problem, she reluctantly agreed to adapt the "leader, agenda, time-line" strategy and it paid off. Meeting times were cut by more than 50%, employees were better prepared for the meeting and everyone in attendance knew the goals that needed to be accomplished.
It's important to note that there will be times when lengthy, unscripted meetings will be necessary. When these meetings are needed, it's important to schedule them at a time when it will not be a detriment to the company. This could mean scheduling the meetings before or after work or even over lunch or dinner.
Meetings are a necessary part of business and like anything else, how efficiently they are run has a major impact on your company's costs and performance.