The term meeting is quite self-explanatory; whenever two or more people come together to meet each other we call it a meeting. But, business meetings are more than just this. The first step in taking any business decision is a business meeting. Thus, one must know the proper norm regarding planning, arranging, executing and attending a meeting.
Meetings are an essential part of the corporate world. Also, they can be organizational or operational in nature. There are various reasons for which a meeting is conducted like resolving problems or issues, creating strategies for business promotion, exchanging ideas, ironing out the creases in process flows, etc. For the success of a meeting, it is important that the group involved supports it and it has the intention of achieving a common objective or goal.
The requisites of a meeting are:
- Selecting the right participants
- Informing all participants in advance
- Setting an Agenda
- Appointing a facilitator
- Summarizing the meeting along with an action plan for the future
- Allowing free flow of ideas
Choosing the Right Participants
Since the core idea of a meeting is to achieve a common goal, it is important that the participants are selected carefully. In many organizations, the choice of the participants for a meeting is usually based on people being in a team or a department. However, in order to have a good outcome, it is important to include participants who can contribute to the meeting and help in arriving at an agreement.
Sending an Intimation to All Participants
It is important to send a notice for the meeting at least two to three days in advance. Also, a recognized authority must send the intimation. This allows the participants to gather the information required for the meeting. Typically, the notice includes information about the date, time, venue, names of the participants, and the agenda of the meeting.
Setting an Agenda of the Meeting
It is important to share an agenda with all participants before the meeting. An agenda is simply the framework of the meeting and includes the primary subject of the meeting and the names of the speakers along with the time allotted to each, etc. Therefore, an agenda must include:
- The purpose or objective of the meeting
- Details of the discussion topics
- Names and specific times allotted to each speaker
- The sequence in which the speakers will address the meeting
Appointing a Facilitator
In most meetings, an appointed facilitator helps to guide the meeting to its logical conclusion. Hence, in simple words, a facilitator helps the group in reaching a consensus. He also ensures that the meeting does not stray away from the subject and provides a structure to the process while facilitating a conflict-free decision-making.
Arriving at Conclusions and Formulating the Next Steps
Most meetings do not come to clear and unanimous conclusions about the subjects under consideration. Therefore, once the topics on the agenda are discussed, summarizing the deductions and finalizing the future steps is critical. Also, most successful meetings end with a brief recount of the proceedings and a summary of the future course of action.
Allowing Ideas to Flow Freely with Maximum Participation
A meeting loses its purpose if all the participants cannot freely express their opinions and/or views about the subject under consideration. For example, if the senior management drives the meeting and the juniors are merely answering questions directed towards them, then they are not really participating in the meeting. Hence, a meeting must allow multiple perspectives to flow freely and have the true essence of teamwork.
Once a meeting is underway, one must keep two important tasks in mind – drafting the Minutes of Meeting and the Action Taken Report or ATR (after a few days).
Minutes of Meeting (MoM)
Minutes are the instant written records of a meeting. They describe the events of the meeting and usually include a list of the participants, a statement of the issues considered by the participants, responses, and decisions made. Drafting the minutes of the meeting is important for the following reasons:
- Different participants have different recollections of the meeting
- Participants can have different interpretations of the action plan
- Some participants might forget important tasks
- It is a written record available for reference at any time
- It can also be required for legal reasons
Steps in Writing Minutes of Meeting
It is important to take complete and appropriate minutes of the meeting. Follow these steps:
- Take a copy of the agenda of the meeting as a guideline to take notes and draft the minutes of the meeting
- Keep the order and numbering of items the same as that on the agenda
- Take note of all the participants of the meeting in advance
- File all the documents and handouts given during the meeting
- Be clear about the details expected from the minutes of meeting (MoM)
It is important to understand the type of information expected from the minutes of the meeting. Usually, the points covered are:
- The date and time of the meeting
- Names of the participants of the meeting along with the absentees
- Amendments and corrections with reference to the minutes of the previous meetings
- The decisions about each item on the agenda
- The future plan of action
- The date and time of the next meeting
Suggestions for Taking Notes
- Keep a format or a structure ready
- Before the meeting starts, make a note of the main points of discussion on the agenda. By doing so, you can simply jot down the details of the discussion, decisions, etc.
- Keep a record of all the attendees and the absentees as well
- In case of any ambiguity, ask for clarifications
- Remember, you cannot capture the complete proceedings of the meeting. Focus on the important points and jot down the important steps as clearly as possible
- You can also record the meeting on your phone or any other recording device. However, ensure that all participants are aware that you are recording the meeting
The Process of Writing the Minutes of Meeting
As soon as the meeting is over, you can start writing the minutes. Here are some tips for writing the minutes:
- Don’t put it off for later and try to write the minutes while the details are still fresh in your mind
- Once you have finished writing it, go through it again
- If necessary, recheck the details with the concerned participants to ensure that you have noted the details correctly
- If the meetings are lengthy and long-drawn, then ensure that you note down all important details. More so, if deliberations have taken place
- Ensure that you keep all notes concise and clear
- Keep the grammar and sequence proper
- Avoid the inclusion of any conflicts or personal comments – stay objective
- Attach any reference material as required
Sharing the Minutes of Meeting
Most organizations circulate the minutes of meetings with relevant employees. However, before sharing the minutes, ensure that it is reviewed and approved by the appropriate authority. Minutes are shared either as hard copies or via email.
Filing the Minutes of Meeting
Once the minutes are prepared and circulated, they are stored for future reference. The filing can be done in files or in hard drives.
Action Taken Report (ATR)
The Action Taken Report (ATR) is compiled after a few days from the date of the meeting. It states the various actions based on the discussions in the meeting. It is usually submitted after a gap of around 5-7 days after the meeting is over. This ensures that there is adequate time to act on the matters discussed in the report.