Meetings are part and parcel of any workplace. Indeed, they’re often part of a necessary process to push projects forward. The problem is that many team meetings run a too long without yielding results. As such, employees can come to dread them. Thus, learning how to conduct productive meetings is essential for any leader. By holding short yet fruitful meetings, you can maximise each team member’s time. During these difficult times where many people are working at home, these online meetings are crucial to keep the team working together well. So, here are a few tips for successful meetings:

1. Gather Information Before the Meeting

If the meeting is for analysing reports or a similar agenda, send the information in advance to all the attendees. This way, you don’t spend a huge chunk of time going over the report and can instead launch immediately into more meaningful discussions about the data. If you truly need to read the reports during the meeting, set a specific amount of time solely for that purpose.

Even brainstorming sessions can be shortened if you ask participants to come up with ideas by themselves. Then, deliberate on the ideas during the meeting. You’re likely to produce more meaningful results this way than by trying to come up with initial ideas as a group.

In short, make sure that all the information you need is ready before you start the meeting. This will cut down the time needed to study the details, so you can spend more time on meaningful debates and discussions.

2. Assign a Tenth Man

People in meetings can fall into the trap of group think. To avoid this problem, assign a ‘tenth man’ whose role is to be the contrarian, or some say, ‘the devil’s advocate’. They will bring up counterpoints to a unanimous idea so that there’s more than one perspective on a project. Meetings are a good place to develop new viewpoints, but this won’t happen if everyone is just nodding in agreement.

3. Ban Laptops During Meetings

Research has found that people who are on their laptops during a meeting retain less information. Ask team members to close their laptops for the duration of the meeting. Better yet, tell them not to bring their laptops at all to eliminate the temptation of taking even just a peek. Instead, ask your team to bring notebooks to take down notes.

4. Make Short Meetings a Goal

Whatever your goals are for holding a meeting, add “conduct a short meeting” to that list. In fact, every meeting should make this a recurring goal. Keep time and see how well you do whenever you convene. This should allow you to get some practice when it comes to conducting short and productive meetings.

5. Speak Last

If you’re the one who convened the meeting or if you’re in a leadership position, try to make it a point to speak last. Let everyone else weigh in and share their thoughts first. When you speak last, you minimise the chance of colouring other peoples’ opinions with your input. Moreover, when the participants know that they can speak freely, they are more open to participating in the meeting and voicing their ideas.

6. Stick to the Agenda

Don’t schedule meetings for the sake of having meetings. Have a clear agenda and stick to it. If need be, list down topics that should be the only points of discussion during the meeting. Of course, with several people chiming in, a meeting can quickly go off-tangent. If this happens, it’s your job as a leader to steer the conversation back to the agenda. Ask them politely but firmly whether their point is related to the meeting’s goals or agenda. Often, they are actually making a relevant point but get side-tracked by their train of thought. It’s up to you to get them back on track.

6. Ditch the Chairs

Researchers have found that people who had meetings while standing up tend to show more excitement about their work and act less defensive about their ideas. This is attributed to the lack of “territoriality.” People were also more open to exchanging ideas when they were standing up. Besides, even healthy people tend to get tired when they’re on their feet for hours. Having them stand up during meetings will encourage them to keep things short and sweet so they can sit back down. If you are conducting an online meeting perhaps suggesting a ‘break out’ period where people can get up and move around but still chat online together can be a great way for groups to talk freely during the meeting recess.

Meetings are inevitable. Nevertheless, there are many ways to make meetings something beyond a dreaded ordeal. If these tips don’t seem to be working for you, there are courses available to help you work smarter and help you organise productive meetings.