7 Tips for Improving Staff Meetings
The Council Bluffs Business Connection (CBBC), during our 15-minute group discussion, talked about some common mistakes that we’ve heard, seen, or done ourselves that cost our business both time and money. This discussion was led by Rick Guill of Farmers Insurance, who found the article “10 Small Business Mistakes that Waste Time and Money” on paychex.com. (A link to the original article can be found at the bottom of this post.) We did agree with quite a few things on the list. One of the biggest points that struck home was the waste of time in unnecessary meetings!
Meetings are great for figuring out solutions to a problem, getting feedback, and brainstorming as a collective unit. However, some meetings are just unnecessary. Think back to when you were an employee. Did you ever get done at a meeting and say “Wow, that was a waste of time”? Now that you’re the owner of the company, a “waste of time” is a waste of money. With that in mind, here are some tips to make your meetings more effective and determine if the meeting is even necessary:
Establish your purpose for the meeting.
If you are holding a meeting, there should be a goal you are hoping to achieve. Are you looking for prospective questions that could be asked by a client? Are you looking for ideas from them? Maybe you are looking for feedback on an issue, or looking to get some solutions? Keep this in mind when going through our other tips. At the end of the meeting you should be able to ask those who attended why you held that meeting. They should give you the exact purpose. If you are looking to tell them to do something because that’s the way you want it done, your purpose is better served through an email. If you are going to get a group together, use the group.
Know and Choose Your Audience
A common issue in multi-departmental businesses, and potentially one for smaller businesses that just have two employees doing different jobs, is over generalizing your audience. If you need to unveil a new product, your sales department needs to know how to sell it, not your accounting department. Why have the accounting department sit in the meeting for 30 minutes? On the other end, while you explain how to execute proper billing for this product, why have your sales force present? You may also be using terms that one department understands but another doesn't. This can lead to extended meetings to explain terms to someone who doesn't need to know. Split your presentation into sections and present each section to the pertinent group. This will cut back on the side chatter, distraction and get your employees back on the job quicker.
Put together an agenda
Take some time to outline your meeting with an agenda. Decide what points need to be covered and then rank them by importance. We recommend emailing the agenda beforehand, so everyone has a chance to think about your points before the meeting and write down their thoughts. This adds value to the discussion. If you are unable to get to all your points in the meeting, your employees will still have this emailed copy for reference.
*Note: if your points on your agenda don’t need any further explanation, this should probably just be an email*
This was a big pet peeve to many members in the group. If you are calling a meeting together, be prepared! You’re running this show, so run it right.
Get your supplies ready before the meeting starts. If your meeting is set for 10:00 am, have everything ready to go at 9:45. Handouts should be placed where employees will be sitting or by the entrance, so they can easily grab them. Any visual aids, like a Power Point Presentation, should be set up and loaded in presentation mode on the first slide. If you are doing a conference call or a video call, have someone check the link to be sure they can see/hear you. If your employees walk in to the meeting and see you are ready to go, they will know you mean business. This will help reduce delayed start time, which, again, is time wasted. This means money lost.
Snacks never hurt anyone.
The only person that was mad about the free donuts was Ron, from accounting, who showed up late and didn’t get one. Be on time Ron!
Leave your “titles” at the door
One of the biggest issues that hinders discussion, brainstorming, and feedback is the “title” issue. Some employees don’t see their opinions as valued since they are sitting at the sides of the table and you are at the head. There are a ton of clichés that you could use like “There are no titles during this meeting,” or “I want to hear everyone’s feedback on this,” but see item 6. Instead of saying that you value their opinion, show them. When someone suggests something, voices an idea, or even asks a question: look at them, acknowledge them, write down what they said or asked, then elaborate. Last, reassure them “That was a good question,” or “That could work. I will look into it.” Any variation of a positive message will let all your employees know that they are free to speak in your meetings.
Drop the Clichés
Don’t use made up or grossly overused business clichés. We’ve heard them, we’ve laughed at them, and let’s be honest. “Synergy” has never generated anything more than a comical laugh. If you are worried you are going to use one, google business meeting bingo cards, then don’t use any of those spaces.