By: Keith Krach
Entrepreneurs face a number of challenges when starting their own businesses, which include building a strong company culture. One aspect of this task involves deciding on the type and frequency of business meetings.
Meetings can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, collaboration necessarily involves having a meeting. On the other hand, unwarranted, expendable, and otherwise non-essential meetings can measurably reduce productivity and revenue.
Given the strong potential of meetings as an avenue for generating ideas, you should consider the following tips for improving the efficiency of meetings and, by extension, your company.
1. Consider whether a phone call could replace a meeting.
Business leaders must begin by considering whether or not a particular matter is worthy of a meeting. Will a quick email or even a five-minute phone call suffice? Is the matter time sensitive? Does it merit asking one or more employees to stop their stream of thought in order to attend?
2. Set a simple agenda.
You may decide that a meeting is not necessary after considering the cost of lost employee productivity and revenue. However, if a meeting is necessary, then drafting a simple agenda will provide a solid foundation. The agenda should include only those items that merited the meeting in the first place, and they should appear in the form of a list of points to be discussed. With a well-drafted agenda, leaders can determine whom the meeting will directly affect and whose contributions will prove most valuable. Once complete, the agenda should be sent to each attendee as far in advance as possible.
3. Limit the number of attendees.
Executives and startup owners are often tempted to invite every employee, especially in smaller companies. However, this can quickly derail the efficacy of a meeting. Generally, it’s best to limit the number of attendees. Studies show that a majority of employees believe that when it comes to developing ideas, most employees believe that smaller meetings are more efficient than bigger ones in which the entire team is present.
4. Establish a clear leader.
While the presence of decision makers is crucial to a successful meeting, perhaps even more important is the need to know who holds the floor. If too many people try to steer a meeting or one person is unable to keep the discussion on track, a meeting can quickly veer off track. Everyone benefits when a leader knows his or her role and upholds it.
5. Manage off-topic points.
One result of collaboration is the presentation of new ideas and concerns. Not every person’s comments will be relevant to the focus of a particular meeting. Business owners and those appointed to oversee a gathering need to learn to manage these off-topic points. Acknowledge each person’s contribution and commit to discussing these thoughts in another, more appropriate setting, then move along with the purpose outlined in the agenda.
6. Encourage participation.
In any given meeting, especially those with larger groups, a valuable practice for entrepreneurs and business leaders is to encourage those individuals who tend to be quiet to speak up. Often, the more vocal employees will have the final say simply because they are the only ones to have a say at all. However, asking for honest opinions from everyone can yield some of the most productive discussions.
7. Experiment with logistics.
A trend that has recently swept the business world is standing meetings. The concept involves scheduling a gathering in which everyone stands from beginning to end. The technique can help to engage employees in that it does not allow for sitting and becoming too comfortable. Business leaders can experiment with the approach by taking meetings outside instead of always going into the boardroom or, in the case of a traditional sitting meeting, asking employees to switch seats at a certain point.
8. Reconsider weekly meetings.
Another double-edged sword related to meetings involves determining whether to hold them on a weekly, recurring basis. The problem with this is that the meetings may not always be necessary, leaving an hour or two each week filled with essentially pointless discussion just for the sake of it.
9. Set a weekly meeting-free day.
In addition to reducing the frequency of regular meetings, leaders may want to consider eliminating meetings altogether on certain days. For example, a company might decide to leave Mondays free of meetings so that employees can return from the weekend and establish a rhythm for the workweek.