You may never have expected it, but here you are with a staff and the need to conduct periodic meetings. While meetings often carry a negative, and boring, connotation, you can make them an effective and useful communication tool. The key is in your attitude and preparation.

Here are eight tips from The Complete Handbook of Business Meetings published by the American Management Association.

1. Give each participant an item on the agenda. No one should sit back and observe for an entire meeting. You need to convert passive observers into active contributors.

2. Provide light and healthy snacks, not heavy, sleep-inducing items.

3. Try “stand-up” meetings – meaning no tables, no chairs and no sitting on the floor. People will have to stay awake.

4. Schedule short breaks frequently. There should be no more than 1.5 to 2 hours of continuous sitting.

5. Call on silent members to comment instead of waiting for them to volunteer. For example: “John, you have some experience in this area. Can you comment?”

6. Diversify your discussion and make people move away from static positions. For example: Break into sub-groups and have them address specific topics on which they will report back to the whole group.

7. Prevent rambling and monotonous statements by asking participants to communicate concisely. Put a two-minute time limit on comments if necessary.

8. Provide interesting examples, data or experiences to make your point. When possible, make these things interactive.

For more information or to order The Complete Handbook of Business Meetings call AMACOM Books at (800) 714-6395. The cost is $27.95 per copy. You may reach the author, Eli Mina, by e-mail at eli@elimina.com or visit his Web site at www.elimina.com.

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