Every type of meeting ever: the meeting that drones on and on; the meeting where everyone sits fiddling with his or her smartphone; the meeting that Doug from Accounting hijacks; or the meeting where almost everyone in the room is wondering the same thing … Uhhh, why am I even here?

 

When did the meeting philosophy become quantity over quality? Meetings fill an increasing number of hours in the work week, yet most employees consider them a total waste of time. According to a Salary.com survey of professionals, meetings ranked as the number one office productivity killer! (Dealing with office politics was a close second.)

 

But there are ways to run effective gatherings that leave you and your team feeling energized and excited. According to Neal Hartman, a senior lecturer in managerial communication at MIT, meetings can be valuable and productive. You just have to take the steps to make them that way. If all else fails, fresh donuts or catered lunch are a good starter.

 

Here are some of Hartman’s favorite tips:

 

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Purpose

Plan with a purpose. You do this everyday for clients! Make your objective clear. A meeting must have a defined purpose. Before you send that calendar invite, ask: What do I seek to accomplish? Are you alerting people to a change? Are you seeking input on a problem? Standing meetings for the sake of having them with vague purposes, such as “status updates,” are rarely a good use of time.

 

Guests

Like any event, edit your guest list. When you’re calling a meeting, take time to think about who really needs to be there. When people feel that what’s being discussed isn’t relevant to them, or that they lack the expertise to be of assistance, they’ll view their attendance as a waste of time. If you’re announcing a change, invite only the people who are affected. If you’re trying to solve a problem, invite the people who will be sources of information for a solution

 

Agenda

Stick to your purpose. If the meeting is worthwhile, having a simple outlined agenda, even one printed out for attendees, is effective for time management and keeping people on task. Create an agenda that lays out everything you plan to cover and email it to people in advance. Once you’re in the meeting, give everyone copies or put that agenda up on a screen or whiteboard for others to see. This helps keep people focused.

 

Take no hostages!

Nothing derails a meeting faster than one person talking more than his fair share. Establishing ground rules early on will create a framework for how your group functions. If you notice one person monopolizing the conversation, call them out. Say, “We appreciate your contributions, but now we need input from others before making a decision.” Be public about it.

 

Start on time, end on time

People appreciate it when you understand that their time is valuable. If you run meetings and you have a reputation for being someone who starts and ends on time, you will be amazed how many of your colleagues will actually attend. Another note: Do not schedule any meeting to last longer than one hour. Sixty minutes is generally the longest time people can remain truly engaged without a break.

 

Follow-up

It’s quite common for people to come away from the same meeting with different interpretations of what went on. To reduce this risk, email a memo highlighting what was accomplished or the final decisions to all who attended. Document the responsibilities given, any tasks delegated, or assigned deadlines. That way, everyone will be on the same page.