How to Carry on a Conversation During a Business Meeting
When leading a business meeting, it's important that you keep your listeners engaged while fulfilling the purpose of the meeting. To accomplish this, your attendees should care about the topic at hand and be receptive to hearing your ideas and those of others. By arriving at the meeting prepared, you can keep the conversation productive.
Announce the objective or purpose of the meeting to co-workers in advance to give them time to think about it and prepare for the discussion. For example, determine whether you want to gain new concepts, obtain a conclusion to an existing issue, communicate procedures, secure a new client or make plans for the future.
Develop a written agenda and include key points that you plan to address. Assign a specific time limit to each point, such as 10 minutes per subject. Because business meetings often go off topic, having an agenda helps you stay on course. Consider inviting key stakeholders -- customers, investors and employees -- who can contribute favorably to the discussion. Know why their contributions matter to the meeting’s objective. When you invite them, tell them what the meeting is about and the topics of discussion. Prepare presentations and documents that demonstrate critical points.
Begin by breaking the ice with small talk. If you have someone new in the meeting, introduce her to everyone else. During the meeting, address the attendees as a group and let your eyes skip around the room. Speak naturally, as though to a friend, and remain upbeat. Deliver your message thoroughly but concisely. Oversharing can cause your listeners to drown you out. Stick to your agenda. If someone threatens to derail the conversation, politely say you’d be happy to speak with him individually after the meeting.
During the meeting, pause intermittently to give the attendees time to take in your points and offer their replies. Encourage the attendees to share their thoughts. Present your questions to all, not just a single person, and remain positive. You might say, “I like Jim’s proposal. Maybe we should use different materials when training new hires. What does everyone else think?” If you don’t agree with someone’s solution at the moment, say you’ll consider it or you might find it useful in the future. As you’re listening to ideas, you may use mind map or spider diagram tools to illustrate the steps necessary to realize a concept.
Make eye contact with the people in the room. Raise your eyebrows or nod your head to show that you’re truly invested in the discussion. Keep your facial muscles relaxed to avoid appearing tense or unapproachable. Ask someone you trust in the meeting to inspect your body language and tell you how you come across to others.
Near closing, summarize important points and ask for verbal confirmation from attendees who agreed on key points. After the meeting, send the attendees an email thanking them for their participation. Summarize what was discussed, including proposals and solutions, and ask them to contact you if they have more to add.