Biz fumbleBusiness meetings are often a necessary part of running most companies. But, what starts off with the best of intentions can quickly be intercepted and devolve far away from what the original intent of said meeting was. A twenty minute meeting can easily turn into an hour long meeting or more with nothing to show for it. So, now that our time is spread more thinly than ever and every second wasted is more valuable than ever, how do you prevent your own business meeting fumbles? Here are a few tips:

1. Have a pre-game plan.
When expectations and parameters are set up ahead of time, it makes it less likely that somebody will drop the ball. The easiest way to avoid fumbles is to have a pre-game plan set up where it is clearly spelled out what topics will be covered, what needs to be thought out ahead of time, and who needs to bring what (even snacks and drinks- meetings tend to work better when nobody is “hangry”!). Even if one of the main purposes of the meeting is brainstorming, it can help save time if people bring in pre-thought out ideas to discuss at the meeting, rather than sitting there in silence with pen to paper.

Set this pre-game plan in motion with a quick call, group email, group video chat or even with a short prep-meeting. Write up the plan in detail and distribute it so that everyone’s working from the same play-book. Without this pre-meeting game plan, it’s a sure bet that there will be business meeting fumbles.

2. Keep your head in the game.
Once everyone is gathered together for the meeting, it can be very easy to get off topic, start discussing other less urgent projects or even gossip about the HR guy that passed out drunk at the company picnic. So, keep your head in the game, draft up a run-of-show outlining how the meeting will run and stick to the plan.

In this outline, you should time out the meeting, setting up a block of time for everything that you want to cover (even devoting a chunk of time for snacks and water cooler conversations) and print out a copy for everyone. Distribute it up front, so all expectations are clear. And this way, if a topic gets intercepted, you have a plan to get the ball back with some buffer time.

And have a non-participant there to be the “ref” and watch the play clock, to make sure that you’re on the ball and that nobody’s “holding” up the meeting. Nobody wants to feel like their time is being wasted, so focus is key here. And if you really want to run a winning play, have one of the higher-ups (like a manager or boss!) be the ref. That really keeps everyone on their best behavior and will surely put your meeting on an upward trajectory.

3. Make sure that there’s a post-game follow-up.
Your business meeting is only a success if what was discussed and decided gets acted upon. So, have someone there take notes about what transpired during the meeting- breaking down tasks that need to be done, who is supposed to do them and the time-frame they need to be accomplished by.

Then, have them condense and distribute this list to the group post-game, so that everyone has a written account of who is responsible for what. Keep this end-game in mind and follow-up to make sure that everyone’s held accountable for completing their own tasks and projects.

These tips should help any team avoid fumbles and score more business meeting touchdowns.

What other tips do you have for avoiding business meeting fumbles? Please share them below.

Thanks to Tony Marren of Operation Just One Can, Mary Anne Kochut of Champions for Success, LLC, David Leonhardt of THGM Writers, Dianne Daniels of The DivaStyle Coach, Inc, Bob Shirilla of Custom Tote Bags, and Susan Greene of Greene Marketing, LLC. for the inspiration behind some of these ideas.