A Typical Business Meeting Format

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Effective business meetings generally follow a four-step format.
Effective business meetings generally follow a four-step format. (Image: Jupiterimages/BananaStock/Getty Images)

Love them or hate them, meetings are a necessity in today’s business world. Meetings are an opportunity for teams to get together and discuss ideas, problems and solutions, and also offer a chance for colleagues to learn from each other or receive additional training. Most effective meetings follow a specific format, and staying with this format will help you meet the goals for your meeting and get attendees out of the conference room sooner.

Opening a Business Meeting

Meeting organizers should send out copies of the meeting agenda and minutes from the previous meeting to attendees a few days before the actual meeting, to allow time for changes, additions and any necessary information-gathering. After calling the meeting to order, begin by making any necessary announcements and introducing new meeting members, if appropriate. Follow the announcements with a review of the previous meeting’s minutes, making and approving any necessary changes.

Old Business

After the minutes are approved, begin a discussion of old business. During this discussion, attendees should report on the projects in progress and the status of any tasks that were delegated in previous meetings. If additional tasks for those projects need to be assigned, do so now. Complete the discussion of old business with reports on completed projects.

New Business

Following the discussion of old business, introduce new business to the meeting. New business is anything that has not been previously discussed or assigned. This section of the meeting is also the ideal time to introduce any guest speakers or invite presentations from project teams or committees. Allow time for questions and discussion, especially during a training session.

Wrap-Up

End the meeting with a strong wrap-up. Some managers like to end meetings on a positive note, by celebrating a success or recognizing a team member. Others end with a general discussion of issues or a question-and-answer period, if there is time. In general, though, meetings should end with a decision about the date and time of the next meeting, if necessary, and a quick review of the tasks that were delegated during the meeting.

Effective Meetings

Following the general business meeting format can make your meetings more effective and useful for attendees. To keep your meetings on track, always create an agenda beforehand and consider including a time limit for the discussion. Limiting the length of any particular discussion not only keeps attendees on track but also helps presenters tailor their presentations to fit within the allotted time.

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