Ideally, a meeting brings people together to work collaboratively on a project, setting a clear path forward. However, many meetings are run inefficiently and are not productive, leading to the perception that they’re a waste of time. By making a few changes to how you approach a meeting, you can make them more productive and get the job done.

Set an Agenda

You should always have a specific plan for your meeting, including goals you wish to meet and action plans you need to develop. Instead of starting the meeting with a recap and background info, introduce the goals of the meeting and start working towards them. Use the agenda to guide the meeting and keep everyone on track. If the conversation starts slipping into another topic, make a note to return to it at a later time and move on.

Invite Selectively

Everyone at the meeting should have a role. Inviting too many people can cause confusion and slow down your progress. When drawing up the list of people to invite, make sure each person really needs to be there –others can be kept up to speed with a meeting summary emailed out afterwards. For informational meetings, you can choose to make attendance optional so people aren’t taking time away from other more pressing projects to attend.

Debrief

You don’t want people rushing out the door at the end of the meeting, unsure as to what is going to happen next. Leave a few minutes at the end of your agenda to summarize and review action plans and make sure everyone knows what they are responsible for. Send out this summary to all the attendees and other interested parties to help keep track of progress.

Try to End Early

For many employees the work day is packed full of meetings and obligations, causing increased stress and lowering productivity. Schedule your meeting for 60 minutes, but aim to be done in 45-50 minutes, giving everyone a few minutes to relax and ask questions.

Today’s technology makes it easier than ever to schedule meetings and even attend them remotely. But as more and more meetings are scheduled, those forced to attend them often begin to feel they are not a good use of their time. With a few changes, your meetings can move your projects forward without wasting valuable time.