Benefits of managing meetings | Sunday Observer

Benefits of managing meetings

2 January, 2022

When organisations launch business activities, most often they pay attention to hard skills that are essential at the initial stages for day-to-day operations.  However, soft skills, often neglected at the initial stages of a business are an essentially vital and compulsory ingredient in business success.

Soft skills are interpersonal skills that are applied when the staff members interact with others in the organisation. Most often, staff members are not aware of some of the soft skills because they are usually learning such skills through day-to-day exchanges with others within the organisation and sometimes external stakeholders.  

Although soft skills are considered by some people as personal traits, in the big picture they are the foundation of how the staff members collaborate in a work environment in order to operate a business smoothly and efficiently.

Meeting management that falls into the communication category in an organisation is a set of soft skills often overlooked or neglected by the senior managers.

While larger organisations realise the importance of managing meetings, smaller companies tend to extend mediocre attention. Meetings are a part and parcel of an organisation to facilitate the exchange of information, sharing feedback, presenting new ideas or proposals, and to know each other better as colleagues.

By nature, meetings can be boring, and usually, everyone participating may not be ecstatic or enthusiastic about it, except perhaps the top management. Most of the time, employees even may feel sluggish about the long meetings as they presume that meetings are only with loads of verbal presentations. Therefore, the convener must make sure that the meeting he organises is an appealing and exciting event for all participants. 

 Interpersonal relations

Effective meetings at workplaces build up strong interpersonal relations inside a team. With the exchange of free-flowing ideas individually, the understanding of general thinking patterns become clearer, establishing a deeper bond through meetings.

The dynamism created by the trust among team members is essential for an organisation to succeed. Physical meetings always help maintain a good working relationship among staff members.  

Periodical team meetings also help make better business decisions. A discussion on a critical decision through brainstorming is most likely to be more accurate than a decision taken individually.

The reason is that the information needed for an alternative action is discussed in detail at a meeting with different and diverse perspectives. A collective discussion has provisions of gathering ideas from the subject experts with visibility and knowledge.   

Successful team meetings also promote inclusion where every participant is given due importance irrespective of rank or status. For example, if an owner of a business is present, he or she also becomes a participant equal to other staff members, when presenting ideas, suggestions, or proposals. Hence, meetings can be a strong motivator for employees of an organisation. Such meetings give equal opportunities for everyone expecting to present ideas and make an impression.

 Meeting facilitates creative thinking and innovation for team members. Effective staff meetings encourage participants to be creative. They are allowed to display their ingenuity in critical thinking. This not only motivates the participants but also helps their career development.       

 Constant and effective meetings are perhaps the best medium to obtain crucial feedback that is vital for continuous improvement. Exchanging contents of individual feedback and comments about varied useful issues helps change, make amendments or create adjustments to general strategies of the organisation.

Staff Meetings

Employee engagement is perhaps one of the most fruitful benefits of staff meetings. When the team members are convinced that their view is important to the company, they become more enthusiastic to contribute to the improvement of the organisation. It also promotes a strong sense of belonging. It is a proven fact that higher employee engagement produces better performance and productivity in an organisation.  

 We have discussed the many benefits a team meeting can produce to an organisation. As mentioned previously, the convener must be aware of how a successful meeting can be conducted with adequate enthusiasm among participants.

Meetings differ in topic, length, frequency, and many other criteria depending on the line of business or functional aspects. However, three key elements make a meeting more successful; effectiveness, efficiency, and inclusion.

An effective meeting has a definite and clear purpose.  The time spent at an effective meeting adds value to every participant. It also helps solve problems through effective decision-making. An efficient meeting is always on track, well-focused, and conducted in the minimum possible time.

The participants must feel that it’s not a waste of time.  Also, great meetings allow everyone to productively participate in topics on the discussion.  

In my long career as a private sector employee, I have conducted thousands of meetings. The first and foremost criterion of a meeting is starting on time. I was always extremely insistent about this salient factor. In Sri Lanka, it is not an easy task if not the convener is somewhat firm on the timely start of a meeting.

Therefore, I always tried to convince participants that late-comers are not serious about their responsibilities. Also attending a meeting late is showing disrespect to other participants who are on time.  

 Selecting participants is an important aspect of conducting good meetings. The person who calls in the meeting must know the exact purpose and what to accomplish at the meeting. Even at a regular daily, weekly, or monthly meeting, the intention and the goal must be clear to all participants. The judgment to decide the participants must be objective. Also, it is essential to give adequate time to participants to prepare themselves for the meeting.

Having an agenda highlighting the overall outcome is a necessity for a meeting. The agenda must be prepared with topics to discuss and the purpose of each topic. The agenda must be developed in advance and sent to participants to get them to prepare for the meeting with relevant topics.

An efficient way to engage participants is to mention the type of action required by each participant and the output expected by the management. Stipulating a time allocated for each topic can be extremely useful to cut down idle chatter. However, the agenda should not be overly designed where participants may get confused or content misunderstood.  

 Ground rules

Reviewing the substances in the agenda at the beginning of the meeting is useful. This allows the participants to understand the topic if they have not done that before. It also gives time to instantly prepare them to offer comments or ideas. Although the ground rules of meetings are known to team members, it is a good practice to remind them again to focus, participate, maintain momentum, and not break the lineup already established in the agenda.

Time management is one of the most difficult facilitation tasks in a meeting. Most often time seems inadequate, especially towards the end of a meeting. When the participants are engaged seriously, they lose the sense of time.

Time management is a distinct challenge to the meeting organiser as he or she has to keep the momentum and let the process move forward.

The best way to handle this is to remind the participants about the time constraints during the meeting and seek their opinion.

Meetings must always end on time and on a positive note.

All topics discussed must be reviewed and those responsible for the action should be reminded of the assignments. The meeting minutes in writing are compulsory and distributing the minutes to all participants in the shortest possible time is essential to maintain the momentum.

Meetings, in essence, boost the productivity and efficiency of an organisation as it brings everyone on the same page. When conducted effectively and efficiently, meetings are not time-wasters but essential ingredients for an organisation to grow. Therefore, planning and conducting meetings must be done professionally to derive the maximum output.