In a small business, every hour spent actively growing and establishing the business is important. That means everything you do, from your daily to-do list to the meetings you hold, should be concise and meaningful. While it helps to meet with the members of your team from time to time, it’s equally as important to make the best use of your time by keeping a few key meeting tips front and center.
Are Business Meetings Necessary?
Have you ever worked for a company that holds meetings just for the sake of holding meetings? It seems like the thing to do, but if a meeting has no purpose, it simply takes your employees away from more productive tasks. Before you schedule a meeting, try asking yourself if it’s even necessary. Many times, you can accomplish the same goal in an easier, less time-consuming way, such as email correspondence between key team members. It’s best to avoid holding a meeting that’s nothing more than a status update, which you can easily handle through email.
Have a Clear Meeting Plan
You lose precious time in business meetings when you hold them without any specific parameters. By thinking it through and planning the meeting before you ever send out invitations, you keep the meeting concise and productive. That starts by only inviting essential personnel to the meeting. That way, you avoid taking any more people than necessary away from their regular work. Meetings are more efficient when they have a specific goal, such as making a decision about a proposed new marketing plan. It’s a good idea to include some key points in the invitation so the employees who do attend can prepare and know what to expect.
Use an Agenda
An agenda can help make meetings more efficient and more productive. Ideally, your agenda should start with the date and time of the meeting as well as a description of its purpose so you can easily file or organize old agendas. You may want to list the meeting attendees and the facilitator for reference as well. If you plan to have people discuss specific things during the meeting, consider listing their names next to the appropriate items on the agenda.
After the basics, your agenda should include a list of items under discussion. You might start with an approval of the previous meeting’s minutes followed by a list of the topics covered in the current meeting. To improve efficiency, consider putting a time limit on each item on the agenda and detailing the process you plan to use for discussion. Let’s say you’re discussing a new product launch. You may want to earmark 10 minutes for a brainstorming session, 15 minutes for debate, and five minutes to hone in on the best solution. Distributing the agendas before the meeting gets everyone on the same page and lets the attendees do any necessary prep work.
Stay on Point
It only takes one slightly off-point comment to veer business meetings away from their stated goal. This can make meetings less productive, extend their lengths, and leave things unresolved. You can keep your meetings on track by having an efficient leader in charge to politely steer the discussion back to the matter at hand if conversation goes astray. Keeping meetings short also helps you stay on track. Participants tend to stay on topic in meetings scheduled for 20 or 30 minutes, whereas they might wander if you schedule them for an hour or set no time limit at all.
Accomplish Your Objective
It’s important to keep the main objective of the meeting in focus. When you know the goal, you can easily tell if you meet it. Let’s say the goal of the meeting is to decide on marketing methods for your new product launch. It’s easy to tell when you accomplish the goal because it’s a specific decision. Having someone assigned to take and distribute notes on the discussion and the decisions made in a meeting can help ensure you accomplish what you set out to do. Individual meeting participants taking notes on their own may neglect to write down one or more important points, which means some may miss the information they need. This makes it essential to communicate the meeting summary, highlighting key points and necessary followup actions, to all participants after the meeting.
Make the Most of Video Conferencing
With more people working remotely these days, video conferencing offers a feasible option for holding meetings, even when your team works in different locations. Holding meetings through visual collaboration allows workers to feel connected wherever they are: at home, travelling, or on-site at a client’s office. But just like with in-person meetings, you need a solid plan with the right equipment in place.
Having a successful meeting via video conference starts with the right system for your needs. Free and low-cost systems, such as Zoom, Skype, or Google Hangouts, fit into the budget of small businesses with limited funds. Pricier options tend to offer extended features. For example, Adobe Connect allows for breakout rooms and private chats. Most web-based systems let you share screens, documents, and visuals, but you need to make sure the system you choose works with your desired software. For instance, if the meeting focuses on financial matters, you want a conference system that supports the ability to share balance sheets or sales revenues directly from QuickBooks Online.
Practice With Video Conferencing Tools
Running a seamless virtual meeting may require doing a little homework and learning how to operate the hardware and software a day or two before you schedule the conference. It’s a good idea to test out the features of your specific conference system so you know how to use it well if you’re the presenter. You might need to know how to share your screen with the group and operate any other features you need to use, such as image editing. Familiarize yourself with potential connectivity issues that attendees may have and be ready to troubleshoot if anyone experiences such challenges. It works best if you mail the login and connectivity instructions to all the participants at least 24 hours before the meeting so they can join the meeting on time.
Make a Good Impression
Remember that the participants in the video conference see you and everything in the room behind you as well. Choosing a location with a professional appearance sets the stage for a productive meeting. For example, you may want to avoid sitting in front of storage boxes or a messy bookshelf. An ideal option is a room without background noise to ensure all participants hear your presentation clearly. Also, adequate lighting helps your face show up on screen without a glare. Positioning the camera so it points directly at your face and using a wireless microphone also helps improve the quality of the virtual meeting.
The participants may not be in the same room, but a video conference is just like any other business meeting. Displaying professional behaviour at all times is important. Try to avoid any actions or movements that might distract the other attendees, such as eating, playing with your dog, or checking your phone. It’s fine to joke around a little in a less formal meeting with people who know each other well, but that’s less appropriate in a more formal, business-like atmosphere. Just like an in-person meeting, it’s a good idea to create an agenda that you distribute before the meeting and stick to the schedule to respect participants’ time.
Business meetings play an integral role in your office communications, but it’s important to maintain focus to keep your productivity high. You can also improve productivity with tools such as QuickBooks to streamline your workload. The QuickBooks Self-Employed app helps freelancers, contractors, and sole proprietors track and manage their businesses on the go. Download the app now.”