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Setting Ground Rules for Business Meetings

written by: nataliajones•edited by: Ginny Edwards•updated: 8/2/2010

A company can set up teams, arrange for them to collaborate at certain times and venues but these basic provisions do not guarantee productivity. To make some teams truly effective it might be necessary to set up ground rules for business meetings.

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    Why Is It Necessary to Set Ground Rules for Business Meetings?

    Not every meeting would require defined ground rules but certainly some situations call for special attention to declared rules of engagement. Some of the instances when it would be wise to have established ground rules for business meetings might be:

    • If the topic for discussion is especially sensitive or if you expect conflicting opinions.
    • If the members of the team have experienced a recent erosion of trust or respect that are key to effective collaboration.
    • If communication channels have broken down and there is a lack of understanding.
    • Previous meetings were unsuccessful because people held back during the meeting and voiced opinions afterward.
    • If the team members are not use to operating in groups and have previously only worked independently.
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    Examples of Ground Rules for Business Meetings

    Ground Rules for Business Meeting In the situations above setting down a few ground rules for business meetings can be highly beneficial, but you may be wondering what are some of the rules that might be applicable? The following highlights some possible suggestions.

    Meetings Must Start On Time

    This one might be hard to implement at first, especially if tardiness is a problem but it is important that you show your attendees that this is serious. You can decide to lock the conference room door after a certain time or institute a "late fee" on your participants, after which the money goes to a charity. The message must be loud and clear that tardiness is unacceptable.

    Attendees Must Come Prepared

    It is one thing to be on time and quite another to be prepared. To make this request reasonable the person orchestrating the meeting must be charged with the responsibility of sending notices and reminders on when the meeting is to be held and what will be on the agenda. It is then up to the participants to make sure they have the material they would need to make their case.

    Side Conversations Are Not Allowed

    Sometimes sub-groups develop within your meeting and these individuals engage in conversations while other members are making a contribution. This is not only disrespectful, it is distracting to everyone in the room, so this needs to be properly managed. Of course, the participants in your meeting are presumably all adults so you should not treat them like they are in a classroom, but make it known that they are disturbing the concentration of all other members in the meeting.

    Everyone Must Contribute

    Some meeting groups may include one or two people who sit silently for the entire discussion and make no contribution. This should not be allowed because everyone should add value. Make a point of directing questions to your silent members and solicit opinions from them at certain junctures to involve them in the discourse.

    Different Opinions Are Fine But Silence Is Consent

    The coordinator should reiterate that different opinions may be a great thing because they provide broader perspectives, so they should not be discouraged. If the group gets into the habit of silencing those who have a differing view they may fall prey to groupthink so this should definitely be guarded against. On the other hand, if there is no contribution on a matter that is raised it should also be communicated that this will be taken for agreement.

    Ground rules for business meetings are important in many circumstances and the tips set forth here can help team collaborations to be more productive in a short space of time.

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