Arranging and conducting a business meeting can be a complicated and intricate matter. These top ten tips are designed as a reminder of the essentials when organising a meeting, written by the jobs.ac.uk Marketing Manager Alison Osborne.
Start by arranging a date - sounds obvious but this can be quite time consuming. So rather than emailing the meeting attendees and getting separate responses, why not use an online facility such as http://www.doodle.com/ - it is free, easy to use and it makes it clear when the most popular date is.
Arrange a suitable venue for your meeting and make sure the room is comfortable for the number of attendees, and that it has the right layout. Do you need a table or a more casual seating arrangement? Has the room got the right technology (i.e. a screen available to show the presentation/website so you are not crowded around a laptop)? And, most importantly, organise refreshments, including a jug of water.
Appoint a chair and separate minute taker - we introduced this about a year ago, and although a very simple thing it has had a big effect. Sometimes I used to do both roles, when they are actually very different tasks. The chair needs to run the meeting, ask the questions, keep track of time and bring out the actions, whereas the minute taker simply makes a note of anything important discussed and the decisions taken. The depth of detail of the notes should depend on both personal preference and the type of meeting.
If you are the chair, arrive early to check the room is laid out as you need it, the drinks have arrived etc. If it's an internal meeting that you have arranged, make sure you get out of your seat about 5 minutes before the start of the meeting. This acts as a clear signal to others to get ready.
The chairperson should make it clear at the beginning of the meeting what you want to achieve in the meeting, and confirm how long the meeting is. It's also a good idea to write an agenda and distribute this to everyone beforehand.
If the meeting goes off track and a topic is being discussed in depth, ask to arrange a separate meeting to discuss that topic, and go back to the main focus or agenda. Maintaining a focussed meeting is essential to good order and effective discussion. It also keeps the meeting on schedule.
Be realistic about what you can achieve in the time allotted - don't have a massive list of topics to discuss if you have told everyone it is a half hour meeting. Respect people's time. Like you, the other members of staff are likely to be very busy, and have maybe moved things around in order to attend the meeting, so showing the same respect is essential, and creates a more positive working atmosphere.
At the end of the meeting the minute taker should summarise the decisions taken in the meeting and create action points, ensuring any action points have specific people assigned to them and timescales to do them within. Business meetings should have specific targets and these action points will ensure that the necessary actions are taken after the meeting.
Write up the minutes/actions and distribute a.s.a.p. - as a guideline we allow 1 week for this so it's still fresh in people's minds. The minutes should be a concise reminder of what the goals for the meeting were, and summarise what was discussed, and the actions to be taken.
The organiser of the meeting should then set a date to check any actions have been completed. This ensures that the key actions from the meeting are kept in mind by those carrying them out, which guarantees a successful business meeting.