In every company, big or small, employees and management regularly gather in the conference room to hold a business meeting in order to discuss new developments, solve an issue or review current processes and brainstorm. Business meetings can end up fruitful and accomplish much or they can leave people confused and bewildered - and simply full of donuts. In fact, company meetings have been humorously relabeled "the practical alternative to working."

However, there are ways to ensure that your next company meeting runs smoothly and allows you to meet your objectives faster. Read these tips on meeting improvement to find out how you can gather your employees more effectively.

  1. Find Alternatives to Company Meetings

    A business meeting, as most people know, can often be a colossal waste of time. Most people can remember sitting in a meeting where the discussion quickly trails off-topic, becomes unfocused, and concludes without ever reaching a resolution. Everyone leaves the meeting wondering why they even had one in the first place.

    To avoid this, your company meetings should have a direct purpose and objective for a group gathering. First, ask yourself whether the meeting agenda can be resolved through an email broadcast or a memo. Perhaps you can simply stop by the office of a few staff members to get their input without a full-blown company-wide meeting.

    Whenever possible, try to avoid setting a meeting in the first place.

  2. Draft a Meeting Agenda and Set Objectives

    If you do find that a company meeting is necessary, your meeting improvement journey starts with writing an agenda and setting clearly-define objectives.

    • What is the purpose? - First, ask what is the purpose of this business meeting? Do you need to accomplish a goal? Get a process solidified and understood? Improve your next meeting by simply having a goal or objective in mind.
    • Write the meeting agenda list - When you have set your purpose and objectives, you should organize a list of topics that need to be discussed into a meeting agenda. You can gather input from attendees on what they need to discuss to help determine the agenda as well.
    • Map a timeline for the company meeting - Your staff will applaud your meeting improvement efforts if you can stay on track and on schedule. Map a timeline, estimating an approximate and reasonable amount of time for each topic. This will help you stay on track and spend only the allotted time in discussions. There should be some flexibility in the timeline, as it is likely that some discussions may end up requiring more or even less time than what was allotted.
  3. Delegate Meeting Agenda Items Beforehand

    You will have more productive meetings if you delegate agenda items beforehand. Assign someone to prepare an agenda item. This helps in two ways. First, it gives meeting attendees more ownership of the meeting so they have something at stake in being there. Secondly, it helps relieve you from having to prepare everything on your agenda.

  4. Be the Moderator to Stay on Track

    A simply business meetings improvement is to assign a moderator or take on the responsibility yourself. This will happen keep the rest of the attendees focused and on track with the meeting agenda. As mentioned, segues into unrelated topics can happen frequently. You can avoid this by:

    • Help discussions stay focused - when a discussion begins to wander, or even if too much time is being spent on a particular item, it is the moderator's job to pull back the discussion and keep it focused.
    • Use a timer, or assign a timekeeper - use the clock as a dictator. Everyone's time is important. Don't let discussions go too long. Keep it only to the allotted time.
  5. Use Visual Aids

    When possible, use visual aids during a company meeting. A media inclusion such as a Powerpoint presentation, a photo slideshow, or even a short video can help get your attendees more involved and engaged with the meeting process. It can also help spark creativity and aid in the brainstorming process.

  6. Ready, Set, Action!

    Never let a meeting agenda item go by without some assignment of action. Even if it is determined the agenda item is completed, someone needs to file papers, inform others via email memo, etc. Make sure someone is assigned to follow up on the task.

  7. Set Regular Meeting Times When Necessary

    Depending on your industry and your business needs, it may be necessary to gather a group of your management team or other staff on a regular basis. If this is the case, set up a defined meeting time, say once a week on Wednesday morning at 9am. That way you don't have to "find" time among the regular attendees. Rather, they have to work around the set meeting schedule.