An opening meeting is a short, typically informal meeting to discuss basic details of the audit. An opening meeting sets the scene for the audit and, if done well, can create a terrific first impression. So how do you conduct a successful opening meeting?
The opening meeting is led by the lead auditor primarily to confirm the audit plan. Exactly what the opening meeting entails depends on the individual organization. For an internal audit in a small organization, explaining the nature of the audit may be sufficient. This can be achieved in as little as five minutes. In situations such as third-party audits, the opening meeting may need to be more formal.
Auditors commonly use a checklist to help them conduct opening meeting. The checklist may cover agenda items such as:
- Welcome: Commence with a warm welcome to establish a tone of cooperative improvement.
- Introductions: Make sure everyone knows each other. This may not be necessary, depending on the organization.
- Scope: Describe the boundaries of the audit, covering departments, functions, and/or processes.
- Criteria: Disclose the requirements against which the audit will be conducted—i.e., the standard, policy, or procedure.
- Objective: State the objective of the audit.
- Audit plan: Share details of the audit plan, including duration, departments, and/or processes to be audited, and any documents to be used.
- Sampling: State that the audit will be a sampling of evidence, rather than a 100 percent inspection.
- Company rules: State your intention to follow all company rules and safety precautions.
- Confidentiality: Commit to maintain confidentiality related to evidence gathered and any conclusions generated.
- Confirm changes: Confirm that the audit plan is correct. If not, try to accommodate changes that are within reason.
- Questions: Encourage attendees to ask questions.
- Thanks: Conclude by thanking everyone for coming and for their assistance related to the audit.
Depending on the nature of the audit, you may also wish to consider:
- Confirming communication channels on how the audit will be run and reported
- Discussing safety, security, and emergency considerations
- Confirming that any logistical requirements are welcome
- Explaining how you will report your audit findings
If the opening meeting is more formal, you may also want to consider sharing an agenda for the audit and documenting attendance of the meeting.
Although an opening meeting only needs to be brief, it’s importance should not be overlooked. Positive outcomes from an opening meeting can include:
- Putting the auditee at ease and building comfort around the audit process.
- Building a spirit of partnership in improvement.
- Establishing trust that the auditor is seeking conformity.
Be sure to take adequate time to prepare for the opening meeting. It can be the difference between a smooth audit and a less positive experience.