In an organization, Meetings form an important dimension of Group Communication. They serve various useful purposes in a business.
“Meetings refer to an assembly of persons who come together and deliberate on topics and issues of communicable interest”.
Meetings and conferences have become an integral part of business life. They facilitate exchange of views and as such constitute an important means of interactive communication. Both these interactive forums facilitate face-to-face discussions that take place at various levels. They may be employer-employee meetings, employee-employee meetings and conferences, employee customer meetings and so on. Seminars are conducted once in a while.
Table of Contents
A Seminar is a gathering of people, in which, one or more persons give their presentation on a particular topic, to enrich the knowledge of the participants of the Seminar. While, in a conference, all the participants usually express their views on the topic, in a Seminar, there are a few speakers, who are experts in their own field, give their views.
Meetings, seminars and conferences, when effectively organized and conducted, can play a significant role in business communication. They facilitate:
- Exchange of information,
- Articulation of alternative viewpoints,
- Deliberation on specific issues,
- Removal of misconceptions,
- Elaboration and clarification of concepts and ideas,
- Finalization of plans and strategies,
- Review of performance, and
- Enlistment of support and a host of such communication needs, so essential in a business or organizational context.
They facilitate intensive interaction with individuals as well as groups, and achieve much more than any written communication.
Meetings, seminars and conferences, therefore, are to be seen as an inevitable yet useful medium of interaction between people in different business and organizations.
“Well-conducted conferences and meetings serve a useful purpose.”
Objectives of Meeting
Meetings are the most popular method of interactive communication. They facilitate direct, face-to-face communication and are essential at various levels in all organizations. When there are two or more persons, there is a meeting, structured or otherwise. They serve the valuable objective of facilitating exchange of information, fostering team spirit and commitment to common goals and objectives.
More importantly, they help in elaborating ideas, clarifying concepts and clearing confusion, if any, created on account of ambiguous and incomplete verbal or written messages. Misunderstandings arising from unclear memos, Circulars, directives and targets, can be cleared through meetings with the people concerned.
“Meetings are the most popular method of interactive communication”
Meetings of marketing people with prospective customers while launching a new product or service help in bringing out the significant future of the product by clarifying finer points. Similarly, meetings with the computer or EDP personnel facilitate detailed and effective planning of connectivity, networking etc. These are just two examples of the ways in which meetings can be of use to serve a vital communication need, in an organization. On a regular basis, there can be customer meets, dealer meets, managers’ meets, staff meetings, association meetings, business meets, review meets and so on.
Like their western counterparts, Indian executives too, in most organizations spend a large part of their working day in company meetings. In the United States, it is pertinent to note that decisions are made by groups of managers or executives, rather than by individual top management functionaries.
Similarly, in India too, we have various committees in the organizations like the Purchase Committee, Audit Committee, Executive Committee, Management Committee, Promotions Committee, Systems Committee, Credit Committee, Recovery Committee, and Legal Committee which take decisions, and that is why, it is necessary to organize so many meetings.
“High level executives in business organizations spend much time in committees and meetings”
While meetings, which are effective, contribute to decision making and result in positive outcomes, ill conceived and indifferently conducted meetings entail enormous waste of time, effort and resources. They may even lead to chaos and confusion. It would, therefore, be imperative to give attention to certain details while convening meetings. The preparation for an effective meeting starts well in advance and there is much that needs to be attended to on the day of the meeting, during the meeting and thereafter, till the minutes are drawn up and sent.
Conducting a Meeting
As meetings are an imperative part of any organization, much effort needs to be made to conduct meetings successfully. It is an important skill which each manager needs to acquire. Conducting meetings requires some prior preparations, like the time, place, venue, etc., and other documents relating to meetings. While the meeting is actually going on, it goes through the stages of beginning, leading, conducting and closing. The role of the chairperson is significant in giving shape and character to the meeting.
Planning for a Meeting
Following are the broad areas where preparatory work relating to conducting a meeting may be necessary:
- Domestic Arrangements
- Code for Meetings
- To save time in communication.
- To instruct a group for a specific purpose, that is, briefing.
- To discuss and solve problems relating to business.
- To resolve conflicts, confusion and disagreement among interest groups.
- To give and get new ideas and immediate reactions.
- To generate enthusiasm and positive attitude.
- To arrive at consensus on issues.
- To learn from others and to train others.
It is important for you to know the purpose of a meeting for you to participate meaningfully in it. Your response in a meeting will depend on what the primary purpose of the meeting is. Meaningful individual participation that a meeting generates, leads not only to the achievements of the objectives for which it is called but also to the development of a correct overview on the issue.
Agenda is the list of items to be taken up for discussion during the meeting. It provides the reason for calling a meeting. It should be ensured that there are adequate numbers of worthwhile issues which need deliberation at the meeting. All topics and issues that will be taken up at the meeting call for advance efforts. The item stated in the Agenda should be relevant and appropriate, keeping in view the purpose of the meeting, and the expertise of members who will be participating in the meeting. Calling a meeting without any serious Agenda, entails wastage of time and resources.
Every important meeting will have a set of background papers, which are sent in advance to members who will participate in the meeting. They relate to items listed in the Agenda, and provide glimpses of the issues involved. Background papers are normally prepared by the concerned functionaries or departments seeking a decision on the issue or a deliberation on the subject matter.
The background paper should cover all relevant details that contribute to effective deliberation. This would normally include facts, figures, different views, expert opinion, latest position, and so on. Minutes of the previous meeting are also sent along with the first lot of background papers since they are always the first item on the Agenda. They are taken up for confirmation before proceeding to the other items. Background papers ensure that deliberations are focused and cover all relevant dimensions of the subject under discussion.
To be effective, deliberations at the meeting should involve all concerned functionaries. Regular members of the committees, wherever formally constituted, will have to be invited. At the same time, in the absence of a formal list, it would be essential to identify people whose presence would be essential to identify people whose presence would be of significance when subjects are taken up for deliberation.
In some cases, senior functionaries will have to be necessarily invited to lend authority to the decision-making process, whereas some junior level functionaries and subject matter specialists will have to be present to provide technical details and other relevant papers. Persons to be invited to the meeting, wherever not specifically stated, are best decided in consultation with the chairperson and other senior functionaries on whose behalf the meeting is convened.
Timing and Venue
Care should be taken in fixing up the meeting in a manner that is convenient to most of the members or participants. A notice, well in advance, will ensure that participants get adequate opportunity to schedule or reschedule their engagements. The date and time should be fixed, taking into account holidays, other important events and functions which may clash with the meeting dates and time, and make it difficult for members to choose between one and the other.
It is generally expected that the person convening the meeting will take some trouble to ensure that most of the members, if not all, are in a position to attend and contribute. While it may not be possible to totally avoid overlapping in all cases, some advance planning and enquiries will certainly help achieve better attendance at meetings.
Indication of the duration of the meeting will also be helpful so that participants would know how much time they have to allot for attending the meeting. Further, details such as arrangements made, if any for breakfast, lunch, accommodation, travel, etc., need to be mentioned.