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Tips for managing business meetings

The tips below are things I've learned the hard way and I think they're going to help you, especially if you're new in the BA field.

You don't have to take things too seriously, don't be too harsh on yourself and others. There will always be people who criticize you but also those who understand you. Learning how to talk to users, how to manage their questions, how to be a good BA takes time.

First of all: Believe in yourself and your ability to handle any situation that might arise in the meeting. Think about something nice and positive. Don’t worry about failing.

Be on time. In some companies, there’s a tacit agreement that you should always go to a meeting a few minutes late. Even being 5 minutes late can be annoying to some people (…after 5 minutes I start to ask myself if I’m in the wrong room).

Be prepared. If you meet to review your document, send the document out prior the meeting and let people know if they should print their copy or you will print for them. Always print extra copies because one person for sure will come without printing or has printed the wrong version.

Be dressed for success. People look at how you dress. Besides, good clothes make you look and feel better.

Open your eyes and watch the non-verbal behavior. Be observant.

Pay attention to what is said.

Take lots of notes.

Have scrap paper with you in case the user does not understand what you’re saying; draw it for him/her. Especially if English is your second language you may have trouble clearly stating your question, so drawing helps.

Be open – sometimes we’re so into what we think that we’re not listening to what the other person is saying. Be open to suggestions, comments, even criticism.

Ask for clarifications - Users explain a function assuming that you know what they are talking about. I think this is the biggest challenge of all – if you’re not familiar with the business, it can take months until you understand what the users are talking about. But try to find out about the business on your own as much as you can, either from the internet or colleagues; at least you go to the meeting with some basic questions answered and you don’t make a total fool of yourself.

Don’t hesitate. Don’t use fillers such as “Uhhmmm…” – that just doesn’t make you look too sure of what you’re saying.

Instead of saying “I don’t know”, say “To my understanding” or “To my knowledge….” Then state what you do know about that subject.

Stick to the questions you sent to the user in advance (assuming you did that), unless the discussion leads you to other questions that are related.

Keep the meeting focused on the subject. I know it’s hard; especially when more than two people are in the meeting, each one has opinions and makes statements. It takes some good facilitating skills to bring them back on track.

If you need to talk to two different users about the same function, try to bring them in the same room instead of talking to them one by one – it will save you some back and forth and they can agree to what is said right there.

Don’t take anything personally, even if it’s personal. You are in the meeting to gather and talk requirements, nothing more.

Most importantly - Relax. Smile. Be friendly.

Do you have any tips to share? We all started somewhere and experiences vary. What was your experience from attending meetings? 


This entry was published on Sep 27, 2009 / georgiamotoc. Posted in Business Analysis, Soft Skills. Bookmark the Permalink or E-mail it to a friend.
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Jon Crawford posted on Friday, October 2, 2009 8:10 AM
Good list. I would add 'Send out meeting minutes or a summary' to make sure you captured all the important points. Also, speak in an optimistic manner, "We can do that" rather than "How did we get here?". Give the users hope that things will continually improve, without falsification of facts.
Jon Crawford
Mavis Turner posted on Friday, November 13, 2009 1:21 PM
agreed, jon. the summary email is good, especially if you're in a situation where meetings may not have been going so well in the past and you're looking for pointers on MA.
Mavis Turner
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