“That meeting could have been shorter.” Sound familiar? Quite possibly you’ve heard that comment from one of your team members (or overheard them complaining to someone else) at the end of a meeting that went on too long. You may not have planned to go into overtime; however many meetings that start out with the best of intentions go off on a tangent and end up running too long and worse never achieve what they set out to.

Besides being too long, there are several others reasons why small business meetings may be missing the mark:

Lack purpose: It’s not always necessary to have a face-to-face meeting. Sometimes an email will suffice.  The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that $37 billion is spent on unproductive meetings each year. At Plantronics as part of our Better Meetings initiative, we suggest reviewing a series of successive questions to determine if a meeting is needed. They include:

  • Have I thought through the situation?
  • Do I need outside input to make progress?
  • Does moving forward require a real-time conversation? (As an option, would an email meet the need?)
  • Does this necessitate a face-to-face meeting? (Would a chat, a phone call or video conference suffice?)

No agenda: In the absence of an agenda, a meeting can get sidetracked. If one is needed, prepare an agenda and send it out beforehand. If someone raises a topic outside the agenda, earmark it for discussion at another time.

Poor participation: Conversation and getting balanced input makes a meeting productive. That’s why you want everyone at the meeting to participate. “Wallflowers” or those who sit back and make no comment can influence a meeting outcome negatively. Difficult personalities also can derail a meeting. A “dominator” or someone who tries to control the meeting by going off at length on their opinion or cutting off others can stifle the exchange necessary to make decisions.

Failure to follow up: Lack of a summary and follow up can undermine even a successful meeting. Document the discussion and share notes after the meeting, inviting commentary or clarification from the participants.

Prepare meeting participants

Not everyone understands that there is meeting etiquette and a level of participation that provides meaningful outcomes. Training may be required, especially for new employees. Key points to convey include:

  • Be prepared: Read the agenda and determine in advance where you can make a contribution. If a topic is unfamiliar to you, ask someone else to brief you.
  • Listen: In order to make meaningful commentary, listen attentively to others.
  • Ask questions: Asking questions helps to stimulate discussion, clarify issues and shed new light on topics.
  • Show interest: Let your body language indicate your interest and enthusiasm for the speaker and the discussion. Smile, nod your head in agreement, and by all means put away mobile devices so you give your undivided attention.

Find out more about how to run successful meetings as well as how Plantronics audio technology can help ensure there are no barriers to communication no matter where participants are – in the office, on the road or working from home – by downloading Plantronics The Better Meetings Blueprint.