Studies have shown that more than half the time taken up by meetings is actually wasted. Participants often are not engaged – many are doing other work, even dozing or daydreaming. And yet, the time spent in meetings has actually increased over the years. How can you get more out of your meetings? Here are a few ideas.

1. Make sure it is necessary

The first question to ask is, do you really need to have a meeting? Can the issues be handled through an email or telephone call? Many times, inertia simply takes over, and a meeting is held simply because it has been scheduled, even though the circumstances have changed and it may no longer be needed.

Is there a clear itinerary? Do you know exactly what you want to discuss and what you want to accomplish by having the meeting? If not, you should not hold the meeting until you do. Agendas for meetings have to be clear, specific as to what will be covered, and deal with things that are significant. You cannot simply reuse past agendas, as many do.

2. Keep it as short as you can

It probably comes as no surprise that the longer the meeting goes, the more people begin to tune out. Keep in mind that attention levels drop off sharply after 30 minutes. Say what you have to say as clearly, simply and directly as possible, and then stop.

The first item on the agenda usually receives the most attention, so you should plan accordingly. If the meeting does have to be a long one, give people breaks.

3. Be strategic and focused

That means you need to cut out all of the nonessential stuff. Focus on goals and results, what has been achieved or what you want to achieve. People can dispense with the talk about how they got their results or the problems they encountered along the way, unless this is the express purpose of having the meeting. This generally takes you off track.

You are there to talk about goals, ideas, plans. Stick to facts, not emotions. Stay focused, with an eye on practical solutions to problems, illustrated by examples.

4. Establish deadlines

The purpose of meetings is to formulate outcomes, results to be achieved, and so there should be clear deadlines set for reaching those outcomes.

5. Summarize

At the end of the meeting, you should be able to put together a list of clear bullet points summarizing what was discussed and what the next steps are.

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