Meetings are an essential part of business life. We may find them often tedious, but the fact is that face-to-face and group meetings are far more productive than digital communications. Meetings have been around since Ancient Greece – the ‘inventors’ of democracy – and Roman times, the latter of whom adapted the Greek methods for their senate. Today, the same methods and routines are used to host business meetings, political meetings, and any sort of formal engagement.
However, the last 30 years have seen the move towards a digital world alter how we run businesses. Indeed, it could be said that 2020 was when meetings and how they are hosted changed forever. The Covid-19 pandemic forced many businesses to instigate remote working practices, which, of course, meant digital meetings instead of physical ones.
We will look more closely at the impact of remote working on meetings, but first, we want to talk about how software tools and apps have helped make organizing and hosting a meeting much easier in recent years.
Invest In Meeting Tools And Apps
The modern age of business and commerce is very much computer and software-driven. Take the concept of a booking app for small business owners, for example. This is designed to help streamline the organization of meetings or appointments and works as follows.
Rather than the old diary system where booking and meetings were arranged physically or the much-used email or messaging system, a booking app uses a cloud-based calendar on which empty slots are available. Say you run a hairdresser or a salon, you list the available slots, your client access the tool and picks the convenient one, and you are informed. How does this translate to organizing a meeting?
For one-to-one meetings, it can be used the same as with the appointment system above. If you need to hold a meeting with members of your team weekly, they choose the slot, book it and get a reminder. You get a notification of who you see at what time. This can apply to remote or physical meetings too.
If you are booking a group meeting, the tool allows for mass messaging and confirmation, making life easier. Now, how about the actual running of the meeting? Did you know that the template usually used for meetings is written down?
Using Standard Rules
This standard format for meetings – business, political, and debates – is known as The Robert’s Order and was devised by one Major Henry Martyn Robert of the US Army in 1876. He had recognized the need to formalize the rules of meetings and spent ten years devising his order! Much of it – is amended and updated in form to keep up with technology – is still used today for formalized meetings.
The latest version of The Robert’s Order was issued in 2011 and, in basic form, lays down rules as follows:
1: A Chair or Presiding Officer is appointed who tables the agenda and opens the meeting.
2: Motions and resolutions are presented by members at the invitation of the Chair.
3: Motions and resolutions are discussed among the attendees under the direction of the Chair.
4: The vote is cast in favor or against the motion.
5: The result is declared by the majority vote.
This is and should be the standard format for a business meeting where a plan is to be discussed, as it allows for the simple taking of minutes and for all parties to put across their point. There are far more complex rules within Robert’s Order that we do not need to discuss here, but it makes for interesting reading and comparison with the Greek rules of democracy.
It is also interesting to note that The council and municipal organizations use Robert’s Order for online meetings, as it helps keep things in order and controlled. It can also be used in some forms in legal proceedings, in governmental debates, and in any instance where a formal gathering for discussion occurs.
Covid-19 And Meetings
The concept of remote meetings using video conferencing is not new, but took on a greater level of importance during the Covid-19 lockdown periods in many countries. It will more than likely become a mainstay of business life, given the convenience of the medium. Being able to run a meeting remotely means you can involve reps and agents on the road without having to fit it in during their small timeslot when they are available.
There are some things you can do to ensure remote meetings run as smoothly as possible. Make sure attendees have the plan a few days in advance and that their contribution is also laid out for them. Also, make certain they understand etiquette for online meetings – dress appropriately, for example, be on time and have the camera turned on.
A communication structure should also be established so that people are not talking over one another. Each of these steps allows for a successful and effectively run meeting and will make life easier for all involved. A final tip: only invite those who need to be there, as those that do not can be provided with the minutes following the meeting.
The Future Of Meetings
It may seem odd to consider that we still run meetings to a routine designed by a 19th century US Army Major – and in line with procedures that were used in Ancient Greece – but it’s simply an indication that when something is done correctly, there is no need to do it any other way.
Use your booking tool effectively and ensure everyone is trained in using it – likewise, for your video conferencing platform, if holding remote meetings, stick to your form of The Robert’s Order. You will find that meetings go smoothly, decisions that need to be made can be underlined, and business resumed.