Business Meeting With People Shaking HandsMeetings. They’re a necessary evil for most small businesses, yet nearly half of workers think that meetings are the #1 time-waster at the office. Gathering your staff to discuss outstanding issues has the potential to make your team more efficient, but only if you’re smart about how you run your meetings.

1. Create an Agenda and Stick to It

The more people there are in a given meeting, the more topics everyone wants to cover. But the more you stray from your agenda, if you have one, the less effective the meeting is. Choose a handful of topics to discuss, and if someone bring up a new topic, table it until the next meeting.

2. Try Shorter, More Frequent Meetings

You’d be surprised at how much you can get done in a daily or weekly 5-minute meeting. Agile project management has long been an advocate of the daily scrum meetings, where essentially two topics are addressed:

  • What’s your progress on your project?
  • Is there anything impeding you from completing it?

3. Ban Mobile Phones

It’s difficult enough to keep the attention of your employees in a meeting, but digital distractions don’t help. Ask team members to leave their mobile phones at their desks so they aren’t playing Words with Friends while you’re covering your quarterly numbers.

4. Only Hold Meetings When Necessary

If you can cover a topic via email or in person individually, don’t waste everyone’s time by holding a formal meeting.

5. Go Digital

If your team is virtual or located in different locations, look at online webinar and meeting hosting services. Even using Skype or Google Hangouts gives you the benefit of a face-to-face conversation, without the impediments of travel.

6. Start and End on Time

If you consistently go over your allotted 30 minutes for meetings, attendees will shut their brains off early. Don’t tolerate late-comers: get started promptly, and when the period is up, end it.

7. Send Out the Agenda Ahead of Time

All meeting participants should be briefed on what will be covered in the meeting beforehand. While you can’t guarantee they’ll read the agenda, do your part by sending it so if they have questions or need to prepare, there’s time.

8. Only Invite Key Participants

Your entire staff doesn’t need to attend a managers’ meeting. Nor does your accounting team need to sit in on a marketing update. Be select in who you invite to meetings, or you’ll have a room full of tuned-out employees.

9. Encourage Conversation

The most successful companies get buy-in from their employees. Encourage your staff to weigh in on important topics, though if the conversation gets lengthy, dedicate a separate meeting to go over it more in-depth.

10. Set Expectations

If your staff has seen firsthand that not a lot gets done in your meetings, that’s what they’ll expect. If they see you don’t react to them coming in late, they’ll continue to do so. Make your expectations clear and stick to them. There should be consequences for people who don’t respect your wishes.