Business Meetings: Who to Invite

Business meetings can fail for many reasons, and one of the most common is that the wrong people are in attendance. In planning your business meeting, here are some questions to ask yourself before deciding who to invite.

— Who has information that will be needed for discussion of the agenda items? Issues that can’t be resolved because the person with the information is not there are a frustrating waste of time. If there are several items on the agenda, consider having certain people attend only for the appropriate items. This respects their time, while allowing the group to have the information it needs.

— Who has approval authority for the subject under discussion? If you have a productive discussion of a plan of action, but someone who will play a vital role can’t make the necessary decisions without approval from someone else, you’ve both wasted time and reduced your chances of approval. It’s much better to have the person with authority in the room while the subject is discussed in context so that they can hear firsthand the arguments for and against the plan.

— Who has the expertise to comment on proposed actions? If, for example, you are contemplating a project that will involve large scale introduction of new software, make sure you have at your meeting someone with the expertise to gauge the amount of time and resources the project will require. This will avoid any nasty surprises afterwards.

— Who will record the proceedings? A record should be kept of decisions taken even at informal meetings, and copies sent as quickly as possible to all attendees. Ideally, the recorder should be someone who is not actively taking part in the discussion, as it’s difficult to handle both tasks effectively. A competent assistant is a good choice for this role.

— Who will follow up on action items? Depending on the group, sometimes the assistant who records the meeting can also be responsible for following up to make sure people do what they committed to do. In this case, it’s a good idea for the meeting leader to announce at the end of the meeting that this person has the authority to do this, and ask for everyone’s cooperation. This way, you won’t put a staff person in an awkward position when following up with relatively senior people.

Avoid inviting people to business meetings just because they’re there. If they have nothing to contribute, or no need to know the results of the meeting, there’s no point in wasting their time or a seat at the table.