Meetings and how to do them
A New Series on Business Startups — Part 6
A new study shows that a great deal of time is wasted at meetings, mainly through faulty procedures, but also because many are not necessary in the first place. Add on travel time and overnight stays and it becomes essential to control the number and length of meetings you attend.
Entrepreneurs setting up a new business will find themselves attending more meetings and interviews than they deem necessary for their purpose. Similarly, small business owners are frequently asked to attend, or even chair, formal meetings. A brief summary of the rules governing business meetings will be useful here.
The chairman, or chair, is the ruling authority at any meeting. It falls to him/her to make the initial arrangements and to draw up an agenda. The main considerations will be:
* Is the meeting absolutely necessary?
* Who needs to come?
* Are they all available on the proposed date?
* What is the precise subject to be discussed?
* What will it achieve?
* At what times will it start and finish?
* Where will it be held?
* What information is required in advance?
* Are any other facilities needed, i.e. projectors, lunch etc.
The next step is to draw up an agenda. This will consider any topics that the attendees wish to raise. It will also contain:
* Place, time and date of meeting.
* Subject, or subjects, to be considered.
* Subject order for discussion.
* Other points of interest.
The agenda should be distributed in advance to all the proposed attendees at the appropriate time, i.e. neither too early, nor too late. The ideal time for distribution is not so far in advance of the gathering that the people may forget, and yet giving them sufficient time to assimilate any brief and do all the necessary homework. At the meeting the chairman will:
* Start on time unless there are pressing reasons against it.
* Introduce newcomers.
* State the purpose and aims of the meeting.
* Follow the agenda as written.
* Let the meeting flow if progress is being made.
* Sum up the arguments if they are being lost.
* Pass on to the next item if the meeting is getting bogged down.
* Not allow drama queens to dominate the discussion.
* Conclude the meeting on time if possible.
Meetings are useful in that they get people together face to face. Prevarications can be quickly worn down. Misconceptions, or areas not well defined, can be discussed, and conclusions agreed there and then. On the other hand, a badly handled or mistimed meeting may just be a waste of everyoneâ€™s time and effort.