Meetings are a major part of some businesses, and an occasional occurrence at others. But whatever their nature or frequency, business meetings require all attendees to take the meeting seriously and participate if needed. Most meetings follow the same basic structure, although individual businesses may have their own meeting timelines and procedures to maximize effectiveness.
The structure of a business meeting begins with a series of formal introductions. Unless everyone attending the meeting is familiar to everyone else, this is an important part of the process as it allows participants to learn about who will be delivering information during the meeting. It also gives outsiders, such as consultants and new employees, an opportunity to learn who they are working with. The leader of a meeting is the chairperson, who calls the meeting to order on time and makes all necessary introductions.
Following introductions, a business meeting's structure requires someone to read an agenda. This lists all of the items that will be under discussion, and in what order. The agenda may be a list of names, indicating who will speak, or a list of topics with subheadings for each participant who will have an opportunity to comment. The agenda will also note the length of the meeting and any scheduled breaks. While reading the agenda, the chairperson should indicate whether the meeting must end by a certain time, or if it will continue beyond the scheduled end time if needed.
After presenting the agenda, a business meeting moves into a series of administrative tasks. These vary from one organization to another but may include participants approving the minutes from a previous meeting, a formal roll call, designation of assignments (such as a record keeper and a time keeper) and any necessary nondisclosure information if the topics under discussion are confidential.
Presentations and Discussions
The heart of a business meeting does not come until administrative and organizational tasks are complete. Following the agenda, participants make presentations and respond to questions from other speakers. A record keeper takes notes throughout the meeting for future reference, though individual participants may take their own notes as well. At various times throughout the meeting a speaker may open the floor to comments or questions, or request that certain participants answer questions or add information to the topic under discussion. Meetings generally close when everyone has spoken or the time limit arrives, with closing remarks from the chairperson.