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Caller: "Hello?"
Company Telephone Operator: "Yes?"
Caller: "May I speak to Mr.XX?"
Company Telephone Operator: "Sorry, Mr.XX is busy right now attending an internal company meeting. Would you like to leave a message for him?"

How often do you face a situation like this? Often enough, I'm sure! What is the first thought that crosses your mind? For me it is, "An internal company meeting, hah! A sheer waste of time!"

But that needn't be true! A well-planned and purposeful meeting can be extremely useful to solve a problem, plan out a strategy or think innovatively.

A few pointers to make your meetings more productive…

- Be very clear on why the meeting is being called in the first place. The purpose of the meeting is to be always kept in mind. Is the meeting being called to arrive at a specific decision, to inform about a specific event or situation, to work out a specific strategy?
- Inform the participants about the purpose of the meeting before the meeting is convened and allow them time to think about their contribution towards the purpose. A step further would be the participants exchanging their views via e-mail or internal written mail among each other before meeting up.
- The meeting must have a leader who should not participate in the discussion. He should only listen and direct the meeting.
- Begin the meeting with the purpose of the meeting being clearly spelled out. Request the participants to keep this in mind throughout the tenure of the meeting. This will avoid any unrelated discussions and diversions.
- Every issue raised must be taken one at a time, thrashed out and then not brought up again.
- The tenure of the meeting must be preset and not extended beyond 30 minutes.
- The meeting must end with the purpose reiterated and the conclusion reached.
- Don’t serve snacks during discussions at a meeting - it is very distracting! Good food is like an intoxicator - it will put the food-lovers totally off-track! If the meeting is a long one, plan out short breaks for the snacks, beverages and casual talk.
- Restrict the number of participants to a maximum of five. Don’t invite executives who are not primarily involved with the matter to be discussed. Executives who are not required to contribute to the discussion and are only going to be informed about the outcome needn't participate (if they are present, the only reason they will open their mouth will be to tuck in a snack!).
- Participants should be mentally prepared for the meeting and should not have any demanding matter to attend to, which is a priority over the matter to be discussed at the meeting.
- The meeting should not be too informal and casual. This could make the participants lax and ineffective. Too much banter and casual talk will result in a waste of time and no results being achieved.
- Allow no interruptions during discussions. Everything can wait (except a natural calamity!) till break time and after the meeting is done.
- Solutions arrived at must be documented and immediately communicated to the relevant centers in the organization for further action.
- Finally, every participant bringing up a problem should only be allowed to do so with a possible solution.

A meeting must contribute to an organization's effectiveness.