Regular internal business meetings are an important part of effective business management. Sales meetings with potential and current customers are also key to growing your business. Understanding how to structure meetings and start them with a focused introduction will help you maximize your time during business get-togethers and get what you want out of them.


Business meetings should have more than just a final goal, such as making a sale or solving a departmental problem. To get to your final outcome, you might need a series of steps that help everyone reach consensus. For example, a sales meeting might include discussion of a customer’s problems or opportunities and his current situation in terms of what he’s currently buying and paying for a product or service; you might then describe how your product or service can better serve his needs and discuss how to negotiate that sale. In this scenario, you have several micro objectives that help you obtain your final goal of a sale.


The introduction of a meeting sets the tone because it tells the parties why they want or need to be there. Your introduction should always focus on the needs of the attendees, rather than your desired outcome. Even if you are holding an internal meeting of your department heads because you need to reduce spending, you can position this as something everyone wants to do. You might start by letting the department heads know that the company is losing profitability, getting participants thinking that if they want to keep their jobs, they need to help reduce costs. You might also remind them that if they want raises and increased benefits, the company needs more profits. When you start a sales meeting, don’t start with an overview of your product. Instead, tell your client how you can help him save money, increase sales or raise quality.


Organize your meetings using an agenda. Start with a brief overview of the reason for the meeting, even if it seems obvious. Add an interesting twist, such as starting a sales meeting by saying, “We’d like to show you how we can help you reduce your order fulfillment costs and increase your profit margins on your mail-order products.” Wait until you’ve established the purpose of the meeting to introduce the principals. Review the meeting agenda to let participants know what you’ll be covering in the meeting, fleshing out your reason for the meeting with more detail, then moving from point to point on your agenda.


End each meeting with a summary of your points. A common format for holding meetings is the “Tell them what you’re going to tell them; tell them; tell them what you’ve told them” approach. Your pitch to attendees will be stronger if you can summarize your highlights after you’ve already explained them, putting all of your demonstrated strengths into one summary message. Follow the summary by taking questions, so no one leaves with confusion, misunderstandings or lack of information. Finish each meeting with either an action plan for attendees or a call to action, such as an order from a customer.