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The meeting was over, and once again Matt wondered what had gone wrong. After an hour and a half, nothing had been accomplished and all six attendees felt the time was wasted.

Meetings are expensive—just calculate the salaries and benefits expense of everyone in attendance. Meetings can cost hundreds of dollars per hour, or more. Effective use of meeting time is the difference between a wise investment and a waste of money.

First, start with a plan and clear objectives for the meeting. Most meetings are called either to relay information or to solve a problem. Outline any necessary advance preparation and make the expectations clear to each participant.

Distribute copies of any material that should be read in advance, and insist that all participants read and understand the background information before the meeting. "The plans of the diligent lead surely to advantage" (Prov. 21:5 NASB). Effective planning is the most important meeting step.

Prepare an agenda in advance and provide a copy to e ach participant. Especially if the meeting is planned to be short, an agenda will help keep your time to a minimum. The agenda should include a clear statement of the purpose for the meeting.

If the meeting is informational, outline the material to be conveyed and provide an opportunity for questions. The agenda should help everyone stay on the subject. Rabbit trails can become a deadly waste of time.

If the meeting strays off the intended topic, use the agenda to gently remind everyone of the meeting's purpose and bring the discussion back to the central point.

When a problem needs to be tackled by the group, start the meeting with a clear statement of the issues and make sure everyone understands the problem and the need for action.

On the agenda, outline the problem and any circumstances surrounding the issue. Obtain agreement on the facts at hand. Because different people will have differing perspectives, it will be difficult to reach a solution until everyone understands and agrees on the facts.

In one instance, a meeting was called to improve response time to customer inquiries. During the meeting it became apparent that some of the participants thought that only telephone inquiries were in question, whereas the leader was also concerned about email and regular mail responses.

When the misunderstanding was corrected, the meeting became a lot more productive and effective. "Through presumption comes nothing by strife" (Prov. 13:10 NASB). False assumptions will torpedo and effectiveness of your meetings.

Establish ground rules in advance, including the time limit, purpose, and level of participation you expect. If the meeting is to convey information, explain that you expect everyone to take notes and clearly share the information with their staff.

Start on time. I established the habit of commencing meetings precisely on time, because wasted time is expensive. I calculated that one particular meeting cost $7.00 per minute. That adds up quickly.

Effective leadership involves keeping the meeting on track and on schedule, always moving toward the objective, and ensuring that all participants contribute. Call on the quiet, shy ones and ask them specific questions to engage their ideas.

Likewise, tone down participants who never seem to stop talking. "The first to plead his case seems just, until another comes and examines him" (Prov. 18:17 NASB). Don't let just a few people dominate the meeting.

Presumably, everyone has been invited to the meeting because they're likely to make a meaningful contribution. Successful leaders tap that potential. King Solomon observed, "A plan in the heart of a man is like deep water, but a man of understanding draws it out" (Prov. 20:5 NASB).

If key meeting participants are absent or people come unprepared, cancel the meeting and reschedule it, if possible. Plunging ahead will typically be a waste of time, and may be far worse than not having the meeting.

I have found that by stopping a meeting where participants are unprepared, rescheduling for a later date or time, and privately communicating with those who were unprepared, their future preparation improved, and meetings went much smoother.

By using these simple steps to plan and prepare well for meetings, you can ensure that your objectives will be achieved and your business career will move forward.

Copyright © Business Proverbs All rights reserved.

Author Biography

Steve Marr
Web site: The Life
Steve Marr has learned from 40 years of business experience that God's way works. As an author, speaker and business consultant, Marr helps companies and organizations apply the ancient wisdom of the Bible to avoid the common mistakes and headaches of growing a business.

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