We’ve all been there. The meeting that shouldn’t have happened. The meeting that wandered from topic to topic. That guy in the meeting who used it as an opportunity to rant about upper management. There are few things more wasteful in the workplace than a bad meeting. But, with a little bit of planning and foresight, you can have more productive meetings. Here are four ways to do just that.

  1. Don’t have a meeting
    The best way to avoid a bad meeting is to avoid having a meeting at all. Far too often, meetings are called when the same information could be conveyed another way. The only reason to have a meeting is when the attendees need to collaborate in real time to interact with each other. This is usually to discuss an issue or make a big decision.  If it’s a status update or some other one-way information presentation that can be accomplished by e-mail, then a meeting is probably not necessary.
  1. Prepare Everyone Beforehand.
    One of the biggest time wasters in a meeting is when the participants aren’t prepared beforehand. Make sure that everyone has received (and reviewed) the needed items. When you’re announcing the meeting, clearly state the purpose of it and what people need to do to prepare. “We’ll be talking about the new video project, so please bring the Creative Brief with you, and have read it beforehand.”
  1. Watch the Clock
    A common trap that many meeting leaders fall into is not keeping track of the time. If you start out spending too much time telling everyone about Open Enrollment, the meeting is going to run over. Being an effective leader means managing the time and keeping things moving along. If the meeting is supposed to be a 90-minute meeting, then keep it as close as possible to 90 minutes. When attendees know exactly how long the meeting will be, they will be mentally prepared to participate for that amount of time. Anything after that can put a strain to attention spans. Remember, the more productive meetings are sometimes the shorter meetings.
  1. Have a Definite Ending
    At the end of every meeting, the participants should be aware of the key takeaways. It should be very clear that the meeting is over, and what the next steps are. “So, we decided to go with Steve’s recommendation on a video company, and that it’s going to be a two-minute video. Marcy, you’re going to sketch out some rough ideas for the script and Steve, you’ll contact the company for a price quote.” By giving everyone a clear wrap-up, there will be a strong sense of accomplishment and closure.

Bonus Tip: Choose Snacks Wisely
Another factor that’s not often considered is what type of snacks will be provided at the meeting. When attendees eat sugary snacks or have coffee, the energy level will boost at first, but participants could have a crash afterward. Instead, offer water, fresh fruit or other wholesome snacks that will create sustained energy. Sustained energy not only helps for longer meetings, but for the rest of the work day ahead. That’s how you have more productive meetings!