Moving quickly and decisively is an imperative for any business – especially a small business – in order to keep up with the competition and move ahead. That means it’s very important when you meet with your team, whether you are in the office or call or video conference in from the road using your smartphone or tablet and headset, that the time spent is productive. 

Unfortunately, many meetings miss the mark. Participants show up unprepared, so time is lost getting everyone up to speed. That cuts into the time for important decisions to be made. Other meetings lack focus. As a result, many people lose confidence in the ability of meetings to get things done.

If you feel that the meetings at your small business are turning into a waste of time, it’s time to rein them in and set ground rules. Follow these tips to ensure that your company meetings result in decisive actions and aren’t forgotten as soon as they end.

  • Confirm the need for the meeting: If your goal is to impart information to a select number of people and get feedback, a call or email might serve you just as well. Determine if you need the meeting before you ask people to take time out of their busy day.
  • Stick to an agenda: Everyone you invite to the meeting should have the agenda in advance and be clear about what you expect of their participation. Also list the discussion points in order of importance in case someone needs to leave the meeting early. Don’t allow the meeting to wander because other issues come up. Table them for another time or task someone to deal with them.
  • Set ground rules: Latecomers should not get a pass. Also limit mobile device usage to avoid participants checking email when they should be giving their exclusive attention to the issues at hand.
  • Set time for each agenda item: Cut off the discussion when you reach the allotted time. People will be more mindful of everyone’s time if they know they have limitations.
  • Encourage input: Don’t wait for people to participate; come up with some method to ensure they do. You might want to ask everyone to come to the meeting with suggestions for action items, which they should send you in advance. During the meeting, take a few minutes to ask each person to provide input on one of the discussion topics.
  • Seek consensus: Get consensus when you’ve got a number of options on the table. Encourage the group to get behind a decision. Ask outright if everyone agrees or can support a certain direction. Once you’ve got agreement, quickly move the discussion to implementation.
  • Wrap up: When the meeting is over, summarize the main points and assign action items. Decide when the next meeting will be, if you need one. Someone also should send a summary of the meeting to all participants.

Having a clear purpose is the key to your meeting. Decide why you need to meet; keep the meeting focused on objectives and take appropriate action to keep it on track.

What have you learned from holding meetings with your team? How do you ensure you accomplish what you set out to?