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How to effectively conduct a business meeting with clear objectives

How to effectively conduct a business meeting with clear objectives

Prepare an agenda with clear goals, use timed discussions, and track action items for a 40% more effective meeting.

How to Start a Useful Discussion

Effective and interactive business meetings always require thorough preparation. First, start by determining the purpose of your discussion: whether you will generate new ideas, make decisions, or provide updates. Then, proceed with the following recommendations.

Have a Short, Well-Defined Agenda

You would be surprised at how many positive meetings are linked to their agenda. Ideally, you should send a small, but clear document no later than 2 days before the appointed time. At this point, it is essential to consider not only the list of major topics but also a specific timeframe – in this case, an agenda always turns out to be very powerful. A slightly less obvious, but also very effectual tip is including a short, clear goal next to each item. By framing this question, you make the participants understand the point of the whole meeting, even if they do not know some of the items.

Choose the Core Group

Ideally, a business meeting should involve from 5 to 7 people. There should be enough people to build a lively conversation but not so many to suppress any activity. Be sure to invite the most interested and active people in the context of each of the agenda items and explain to each of them why their presence is important.

Time to Start

The moderator’s role cannot be overestimated: they are not just the conductors of the meeting but also the protectors of productivity. Deciding on the exact beginning time thus allows respecting others’ schedules and preserving order.

Never Let Monologues Reign

The most obvious way to get an answer is to ask a special question to each specific person – for example, “What do you think, [Name]?” or “Please share your thoughts on this issue, [Name]”. Do not be afraid to be intrusive: in this way, you can be sure to squeeze in more viewpoints.

The Parking Lot

The most effective way to all your ideas while maintaining concentration is the method of parking lots. That is when the facilitator says, “Well, let’s probably discuss this one separately”, and the conversation returns to the original item.

In today’ digital era, using technology not only eases logistics but also helps to engage the audience. Using collaborative platforms like Google Docs for a real-time discussion of the important points or brainstorming. Moreover, post-meeting chats with Slack or Microsoft Teams will help to remind people of decisions and next steps. Several tools may help to create visual aids that are important for better information acceptance. However, they have to be simple, concise but linked directly to the discussed issue. Additionally, information is more easily perceived if it is shown in the form of slides, charts, and graphs. Before the meeting ends, it is rate to engage in the follow-up process. Summarize decisions, assign “action items” and deadlines. Moreover, a sign of progress is that the assigned work has been successfully started. One of the key things is to circulate a meeting summary to all interested parties no longer than 24 hours. Ensure that the future steps and deadlines are clear, and they follow the initial plan. Also, every step has to be directed at the achievement of the final goal and not just appear in the plan. You have to ensure that the meeting is as efficient as possible and adds to the development of the project, not becomes an anchor.

How to Set Meeting Goals

First, determine what type of goal you want to achieve. Is it informational, meaning that your primary goal is to share some information with or get it from the attendees? Do you want to make a decision of some sort based on the discussion at the meeting? Alternatively, maybe you want to brainstorm to get some new solutions? Understanding the nature of your goal is the first condition of structuring your meeting.

Use the SMART criteria: your goal should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and tied to a concrete time limit. Instead of saying “we will discuss our marketing strategies,” go with “we will define three targeted marketing strategies for Q2 and the outcomes we expect from them and the KPIs we will use to evaluate them.” In this case, you will not end up with a two-hour in-depth discussion of your ideas with no follow-up.

Make sure that your attendees are on the same page: either organize a pre-meeting brief or share data you want to work on in advance. If all the attendees know what you want to achieve, you will not have to waste time on introduction and go straight to productive activities.

Set the criteria how you are going to measure the achievement of your goal. For example, if your goal is to define a new feature for your product and vote on it, the criterion of your success will be making a decision by a majority of votes and having a detailed implementation plan. If you set these criteria in advance, you will have a much easier time assessing how effective your meeting was and keeping everybody responsible.

Another important advice is to build feedback loops: after each meeting and each goal, take your time to analyze how successfully you have achieved it and ask your attendees for feedback on the process of setting goals and your meeting in general. A learning process is a good way to eliminate the shortcomings in your approach and make your following meetings more efficient.

Action Items and Next Steps

It is important to always close the meeting by defining specific next steps. For instance, if the point was to decide on project direction, the next steps might be assigning project leaders, setting up a timeline for the project, or scheduling follow-up meetings. This anchors the meeting’s goal into specific actions and keeps it productive and meaningful. Having exact next steps ensures that whatever is achieved in the meeting will not go to waste and will instead continue to gather momentum toward the desired goal.


Define meeting goals so you can measure success

Align people to the meeting goal and the metrics used to measure success

Benchmark your success off your stated goal

Empower your team with the tools of meetings to promote decision-making and problem-solving

In this paper, we have defined the organization’s success and meeting goals. To ensure that your meetings are not just unnecessary time guzzlers, you need to define how efficient you need to be, concrete steps to take, and how to measure results. Meeting goals define success or failure. Engagement, problem solving, and decision making depend on a balance between meeting goal and different aspects of the meeting.

There are numerous ways to improve the effectiveness of business meetings, but the following are the most effective options:

use technology to track and analyze metrics;

obtain feedback from the participants;

strive for continuous improvement by setting benchmarks.

First, one could leverage meeting management tools and software to track these metrics over time. For example, Asana or Trello can monitor action item completion rates, and SurveyMonkey can be used to assess a meeting’s success, such as participants’ satisfaction or their feedback after the meeting. Feedback from the participants, qualitative though it may be, can be sheer gold if used properly.

Thus, every meeting should be concluded with a proper feedback session. Specifically, the participants should assess the effectiveness of the meeting in achieving its objectives, and they should also suggest potential improvements . If the qualitative feedback is actually acted upon, the results become more tangible – the qualitative metric allows for a potentially enormous improvement of the entire meeting process. Finally, future benchmarks may be set in accordance with the meeting’s past performance in terms of the established metrics.

For example, given that the last several meetings aimed at attaining a 70% action item completion a fortnight later, the meeting organizer should aim for an aight-five percent completion. Naturally, there may be multiple metrical benchmarks set in accordance with any of various characteristics – the ones exemplified are merely illustrative. Importantly, though, is the fact that such benchmarks not only serve to motivate the process of running meetings but also facilitate measuring its performance over time.

Reiterate the Meeting’s Purpose Upfront

Always start every meeting by saying what it is for. It’s not a repetition, it’s essential. That statement confines the discussion, mobilizes the attendees, and sets the atmosphere for talking. For instance, “good afternoon, everyone, today we are going to decide on our Q4 marketing strategies and appoint team leads” focuses all the participants’ attention on the topic.

Use the Simplest Language

Indeed, corporate talk is infamous for the unnecessary jargon, buzzwords, and acronyms. Avoid that and use simple language. Such a style ensures that all involved parties, regardless of positions and departments, can understand and participate. Moreover, contrary to the common misconceptions, creating a surreal impression doesn’t express your intellect; on the other hand, help understand something is a sign of knowledge.

Blend with Data Some Good Story

Undoubtedly, data and facts are crucial. Nevertheless, the “naked” statistics tell very little – if anything. Support your harsh info with some good story or use some allegories. For instance, when you present the results of the customer survey or the reports of sales at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, describe several specific cases or situations you have encountered. Storytelling turns seemingly abstract information into a particular story or anecdote, which aids perception.

Mutual Understanding Relies on the Actively Listening Listener

Mutually beneficial communication can be achieved only if every speaker is ready to be an equally good listener. Stimulate your employees to ask questions and make sure they understand something before proceeding to the next point. Invite them to share their thoughts and visions of the matter and respect each other’s right to express a question or a counter-argument.

Show, Don’t Tell

Graphics can explain a thousand words. You can use visuals like flowcharts, pyramids, slides, etc., to show what you are saying. For example, you can picture the brief world map with all the countries Hings are sold to while explaining that, or draw some simple graphs illustrating the Trust Index crash at the time we are creating. Just make sure your graphics are explanatory, not confusing or too elaborate.

In conclusion

After the meeting, conclude the key issues raised, the solutions adopted, and the duties assigned. Sum up the results and assure everyone that by the conclusion of the meeting, you understand what to do further. For instance, you can say, “The product line will be launched in September, whereas Lisa will be in charge of the whole project” . If your communication is clear and purposeful, your dull meetings will be interventions where things get done. In addition, I suggest forming a conducive environment that boosts decision-making and follow-up so your meetings provide better results.

Fostering decision-making and follow-up

Making decisions is important, but ensuring that the decision is followed up and ends up in an action is crucial. Follow-up is the transition of the discussion into tangible tasks.

Streamlining the decision-making process

Firstly, we need to have a meeting structure that consists of a discussion, time to think, and a time to decide. For example, if you are selecting the marketing plan, ask one person to prepare a presentation with slides and suggest the best alternatives. The results will be prepared for the meeting, and they are stable during the time so there is no need to make rush decisions. You should discuss all the alternatives in the meeting and hold a vote. The decisions must be made before the meeting ends and you must have a conclusion. There are risks that there will be no consensus, but an undecided meeting can last for hours without clear decisions.

Assigning action items

In addition, immediately after the decision, provide action plans; for instance, “Alex will finish the marketing materials by the end of the next workweek.” It is clear who must complete these tasks, by when, and everybody is accountable. Don’t forget you can use tools like Asana, Trello, or to track the completion of these tasks.

Establish a follow-up mechanism

Decide on the follow-up mechanism during the meeting. Will it be another meeting, an email summary, or a progress report on a project management platform? For example, “We will meet next Friday to review the marketing copy Alex has prepared.” This way, you ensure that the decision is made and acted upon.

Ownership and accountability

Create a culture where people own their tasks and understand how they contribute to the team’s objectives. Celebrate the progress, and remind the team that it was only possible because someone decided to act and follow through.

Continuous feedback loopImplement a feedback loop where decisions and their outcomes are reviewed. For example, this can be a quick 10-minute retrospective at the beginning of your next meeting, or a feedback survey. Use this opportunity to learn and improve your decision and follow-up process.

If you follow these strategies, you will make sure that your meetings are not just talk, but a source of action and progress. Your decision-making becomes more efficient, follow-ups more consistent, and your overall meeting culture more dynamic.

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