For some people, meetings are an unnecessary evil, but club owners know that to have effective communication within a club, meetings are necessary.

At the Houstonian in Houston, TX, upper-level management meets once a week with the General Manager, Greg Nielson. Those meetings are invaluable, he says. They not only allow Nielson to reinforce certain training issues, but he can also review goals, current financial numbers, problems and recognize staff.

Nielson offers the following suggestions for putting together a great meeting:

  • Set a purpose and agenda for each meeting. Meeting just for the sake of meeting serves no purpose but to frustrate everyone. Set an agenda and let meeting participants know what the agenda is so they can prepare questions and responses if necessary. Make sure they know they can add to the agenda if they contact you before the meeting.

    For Nielson, regular staff meetings serve multiple purposes: training review, communication, current results/status and actions that need to be taken if the club is off track, and recognition of staff.

  • Set regular meeting times, dates and locations. If everyone knows that a staff meeting occurs every Wednesday at 10 a.m. to 11 a.m., they will be more likely to keep those times free each week, allowing them to come to each meeting. A regular location ends the guessing game before each meeting.

  • Be respectful of people's time. Your employee's time is valuable to them and to the club. For that reason, keep meetings as short as possible — 45 minutes to an hour at the longest. Any longer and people's minds will wander. Part of being respectful is starting the meeting on time and ending on time.

  • Make sure the right people attend. Don't invite people to a meeting just to invite them. Only invite those people who can influence the issue being discussed. For those the issue will affect, you can invite them to a meeting after the event is planned or the issue is settled to communicate with them what is going on, says Nielson.

  • Assign responsibilities for the meeting. Rather than you as the owner or general manager running the whole meeting, get your staff involved. Nielson assigns a department manager to lead a 10-minute to 15-minute training topic at the beginning of each meeting. The assignments are given far enough in advance that the department manager has time to research the topic and prepare a presentation.

    “What I am trying to do is develop their leadership skills,” says Nielson. The presentation allows them to get up in front of peers and be creative. Nielson is available to help them set up the presentation if they need help.

  • Give people an action. At the end of most meetings, you should send people out of the room with some form of action they need to take. That may be as simple as spreading the message to their staff, but it also could be revamping a program or researching some information to report back at the next meeting.

  • Have a note taker and someone who can check up on actions. One person should be responsible for recording what's happening at the meeting, what actions were decided on, whom should perform those actions and when they need to be completed. The notes should be forwarded to those involved in the meeting with actions, deadlines and those responsible for each action clearly spelled out.

  • Encourage the department heads to hold their own staff meetings. Each of your department heads should be meeting on a regular basis with their staff to share information, hear complaints, and get assistance on certain actions. It is especially important for front line staff to know how the company and their department are doing, as well as how they as individuals are doing so they see what their contribution does to the collective.

  • Schedule special meetings when needed. Meetings should stick to the agenda. If a few people begin discussing an issue of no immediate relevance to the rest of the group, then you as the facilitator must pull the meeting back to the topics on the agenda. You can ask the other individuals to schedule a separate meeting where the other topic can be discussed without taking up the time of those who don't need to be involved in the discussion.

  • Be prepared. Make sure to come with the research and numbers that you need to thoroughly discuss the topics on the agenda. If others are leading a portion of the meeting, make sure they are prepared. Have on hand any aids they may need — a computer, audio/visual equipment or a flip chart.

  • Turn off distractions. For the one-hour meeting distractions should be eliminated. Ensure that all cell phones and pagers are off and that the door is shut.

  • Allow everyone to share. Meetings should be held in a protective environment where everyone can be open and honest. Everyone in the meeting needs to feel that their opinions are valued and that they can speak up. If someone is dominating the conversation, make sure you ask the quieter members to share their thoughts on subjects.

  • Ask for representatives. When a manager can't make a meeting ensure that they send a representative from his or her department. That representative can be empowered to vote in the place of the department head or can come simply to capture information that is then disseminated to the department head and the rest of the staff in that department.

  • Keep it positive. Regular meetings are a great time to hand out praise and recognition for jobs well done. Rather than being a time to beat people down, the meetings should be a time to pump people up and make them feel good about what they are doing and how the company is doing.

Focus on what is going right at the meetings while also developing plans to deal with what is going wrong.

“My goal is to have my meetings be things people look forward to,” Nielson says. “When you get them excited, learning something, seeing that progress is being made, now you are truly capturing the hearts of your people. They walk out ready to take on the world.”