From planning to execution, conducting a successful meeting can be a challenging task. Whether the meeting was to impart important information, keep staff current on policies or events, or to address recurring issues around the office, you undoubtedly had something important to convey. At closing you should feel confident that the information was received and, ideally, that employees have left the room with a new sense of enthusiasm for their work. Unfortunately it is all to common that meetings have the opposite of the intended effect, leaving employees feeling overloaded and dazed as they shuffle back to their desk, their eyes now straying from the unfinished task at their desk to the clock on the wall.

One thing to consider early on is your audience. Many times meetings are company-wide because the agenda contains information that concerns the business in general, but that isn't always necessary. Calling the entire IT department to a sales meeting might be counter-productive when only a minute or two will be spent on points pertinent to their position, especially when there are network issues or faulty equipment in need of their attention. Consider conducting a more informal get-together for those general areas of concern, or perhaps the info is less pressing and a simple email or break room notice will suffice.

Lay out in concrete terms the purpose of the meeting. People should know before they sit down exactly what the meeting concerns and to what end it has been designed to accomplish. Though it doesn't need to feel like a lecture, a clear list of discussion points should be established and firmly followed. It's perfectly natural for the discussion to lead off course, but with a clear agenda on display on a white board or handout, it will be much easier to get back on track. With an agenda on hand there won't be any question as to what the meeting is about, and employees will appreciate the fact that their time hasn't been wasted.

Allot time on the schedule for group feedback. The audience may appear attentive, eyes wide, nodding their heads, even taking the time to write down a quick note or two, but without encouraging interaction or feedback from the group, it's impossible to gauge whether or not the information has really been received. Time alloted for questions and concerns doesn't need to follow a strict schedule. If a question seems to be leading the focus of the discussion astray, you can always refer back to the agenda.

Establish goals, and who will be responsible for them. It is impossible to know how effective the meeting has been if there is no method put in place to track it. Follow-up meetings and deadlines should be set in order to ascertain that people are following through with the tasks they were assigned during the meeting. Track their progress using company goal tracking software so that they can see the impact of their work in real time. Actively encouraging employees to use this kind of software will keep them abreast of their deadlines but also leave them with a sense of reward in knowing that their role is being fulfilled.

Following these guidelines will ensure that your next meeting will be a success, by reaffirming in a clear manner the collective goals of the company and the roles for which each individual will be responsible in making those goals a reality. Finally, in tracking that these goals are being met through software and follow-up meetings, you can rest assured that your professional gatherings are fulfilling their purpose.