Every business, whether it has five or five hundred employees, has meetings as a regular part of its operations.
Employees can communicate with one another in many different ways. However, business meetings can be a very effective tool for increasing efficiency, if conducted correctly. Company meetings give employees the opportunity to come together as a team and set goals. Although individual team members work on tasks outside the meetings, sharing information in an open forum helps increase efficiency and keeps company projects on target and on time.
Unfortunately, we have all sat through meetings that ran far too long and accomplished far too little. There is nothing worse than being called into a meeting that you know is going to be a waste of your time. You can find yourself becoming numb to the fact that your meetings are unproductive and view them as nothing more than a speed bump in the middle of your day.
Some symptoms to look for when attending an unproductive meeting include: Does the meeting ramble, lack a clear purpose or not have an agenda? Are people doing their own thing, talking and texting or responding to emails? I attended a meeting where one woman actually began to file and paint her finger nails as the speaker went through his presentation. Do people arrive late or leave early? Are decisions discussed but never made? If a decision was made, did everyone have their say in order to have it supported by the whole group? Is the meeting dominated by a few talkers (not necessarily the leader)?
Keeping the tone of a meeting in line with the topic material can be just as important as its content. For example, a meeting to discuss a company-wide manpower reduction should be a somewhat somber occasion. Cracking jokes to try and lighten the mood might be ill advised and could be seen as uncaring by people who are about to lose their jobs. On the flip side of that coin, I attended a meeting to discuss the location for the upcoming company picnic where the leader was so gruff I left feeling as if I had just received a verbal reprimand.
Most meetings will fall in between these two extremes, but it is always best to know your audience. The highest levels of professionalism and decorum should always be adhered to. Making off-color remarks or any comment that might be seen as offensive could land you in front of an HR supervisor to discuss your future with the company. A doctor who led a meeting with our company to discuss the merits of our business and how it affected his practice opened by commenting on his preferred size and shape for female breasts. He then proceeded to point out several women in attendance who met those criteria. He was never asked to speak at one of our company meetings again.
Meetings are planned events and should be prepared for in advance, not only by the leader but by the participants as well. A meeting agenda should be established and followed in order to stay on track and ensure that the entire group had a chance to be heard. As the leader you should never be afraid to limit comments from attendees and ensure that they are kept on topic. If reports or other company documents are to be discussed, be ready with your presentation material or handouts. Hold employees accountable for being prepared if they are required to review reports or discuss results as part of the meeting agenda. Set ground rules for limiting outside conversations, texting or emails. People may have to be reminded of these rules before or during the meeting. If attendance is mandatory, make sure that all of the key participants are present. If not, the meeting may have to be rescheduled for a later date. If you are uncomfortable speaking in front of people, joining Toastmasters is an excellent way to overcome your fear. Practice speaking at family events and even in front of a mirror. With time, your confidence and abilities will improve.