Most of us have suffered through our share of unproductive business meetings. As the presenter rambles aimlessly, we’ve found ourselves drifting off or silently fuming as we take mental inventory of the things we could be accomplishing as the minutes and hours crawl slowly by.

Such meetings are frustrating not only for the attendees but also for the facilitators.  Here are some ways to ensure that your next meeting is more effective and productive for all parties involved.

Consider Whether the Meeting is Warranted

Many small business owners schedule regular weekly or monthly meetings to provide structure and improve communication throughout their organization. For some businesses, this approach is appropriate. For others, such rigid scheduling leads to frustration and decreased productivity for all involved.

The same is true for one-time meetings. Ask yourself whether the time and effort required to call your staff together is really justified. In some cases, you may find that a company-wide email will be equally effective and far less disruptive.

Create an Agenda and Stick to it

If you have only a handful of employees, this may seem a little silly.  But having a written agenda will help you stay focused on the issues at hand. It’s also a good idea to share the agenda with the meeting attendees beforehand to help them stay focused and involved.

Stay on Schedule

Allot each topic on the agenda a certain amount of time, and stick to the schedule. If possible, arrange the meeting room so that you have a clear view of a wall clock strategically placed at the back of the room. You might even want to designate one of the attendees as the official time-keeper.

Running long makes you look disorganized and tells the meeting attendees that you don’t value their time.  Any items not covered in the current meeting can be handled in a follow-up session at a later date.

Interact with Your Audience

Remember to engage the meeting attendees. Assuming your agenda is substantive; they’ll likely have questions or comments they’ll want to share with you and the group.  Allow time for this valuable interaction, but don’t relinquish your control of the agenda. It’s a good idea to build in time for Q & A at the end of the meeting to avoid getting derailed and accomplishing less than you had intended.

Re-cap the Meeting

It’s a good idea to send attendees a re-cap of the meeting as soon as possible after it is adjourned. The re-cap should include the original agenda along with any action items or other pertinent notes to ensure that everyone is on the same page.

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