Too many business meetings are ill-directed, digressive and drawn out. Call a meeting only when it’s absolutely critical, and structure it firmly so that it achieves its purpose.
1. Decide whether you really need to call a meeting. Can the issue be resolved by an individual or a conference call?
2. Determine who needs to attend. Try keeping the number of attendees small, as large meetings get unwieldy. Suggest that people attend only the parts of the meeting that involve them. This way you can keep the discussion more focused.
3. Set definite starting and stopping times.
4. Prepare an agenda. Explain the goal of the meeting; if there are many goals, decide which ones command priority, and make this clear.
5. Circulate the agenda in advance to allow attendees to prepare.
6. Assemble visual aids such as charts, handouts or slides.
7. Start the meeting at the designated time, regardless of whether everyone is present. Avoid taking too much time to summarize for latecomers.
8. Start off the meeting with straightforward, easily resolved issues before heading into thornier ones.
9. Allocate a specific amount of time for each issue. Move through issues, allowing for discussion but discouraging digression or repetition. Use a timer to help monitor the time.
10. Postpone discussion until the end of the meeting if debate on an issue runs overtime. Make sure to cover the other issues on the agenda.
11. Follow up: Circulate copies of the minutes after the meeting to remind everyone of conclusions and action plans.