Make Meetings Meaningful

Effective meetings are a key to small business success because they help improve communications and tackle problems as a team, among other benefits. But that's easier said than done. Surely there are times when participants have met your questions with blank stares or remained completely silent during conference calls.

To avoid these scenarios, here are three tips to help small business owners run productive meetings:

Embrace the Face

Several studies conclude that a visual connection improves communication and collaboration, including a recent report by Blue Jeans Network on the State of the Modern Meeting. The report found that the vast majority of professionals (94 percent) feel face-to-face communication improves business relationships. What's more, 71 percent say they have lost a deal due to a lack of face-to-face interaction. What does that mean? Face-to-face meetings are a must to drive engagement.

However, as a small business owner who wears multiple hats, you may not always have time to travel to a client's or vendor's office for an in-person meeting. Fortunately, in the digital era, video collaboration tools enable face-to-face interactions while reducing travel time and cost. You can easily connect with anyone from any computer, mobile device or conference room system. Why waste time traveling to a meeting when technology makes it easy to talk and meet in the comfort of your own office or home?

Do Not Overlook The Timing of a Meeting

Timing is everything. When you're hosting a very important meeting, you may not want to schedule it at 9 a.m. on the dot because you could get distracted with emails that have arrived overnight, which in turn prevents you from leading an effective meeting. Participants will also appreciate having the time to settle in, check their emails and plan out their day before they head straight into a meeting. Conversely, 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. are good options. The Blue Jeans State of Modern Meeting report found that almost one-half of meetings occur between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. The timing of a meeting is an important detail that influences the productivity of your meeting, so keep that in mind next time you schedule a meeting.

Shorten Your Meetings

Shorter meetings save time and improve recall of meeting content. If you have a lot to cover, break your materials into two sessions and let participants take a break to recharge.

How to keep your meetings short? First of all, avoid scheduling hour-long meetings. The duration of an average meeting is 45 minutes based on the same report by Blue Jeans Network, which means you can always wrap up a meeting in about 30 minutes if you stay on-topic. Secondly, preparation is key to keeping meetings short. When the agenda and talking points are clearly determined, attendees are less likely to digress. You can also assign a participant to become a moderator who keeps time and alerts attendees if they're off-topic.

Rethinking your meeting strategy can leave you with more time and a more tuned-in staff. Technology, choice and brevity are within reach, and are likely to succeed in making your small business meetings more personal and more effective.