Universally dreaded by employees at all levels and across all industries, meetings are a necessary evil that, if conducted correctly, can improve workplace efficiency and boost morale. The ideal meeting is targeted, concise, and most importantly, productive. Do team meetings the right way, and ask yourself these four questions before you meet:

Is This Meeting Necessary?

A lot of what is accomplished in a meeting could be taken care of in a much more efficient manner — so think twice before scheduling in the first place. The necessity of any given gathering can easily be determined by creating a clear goal and outlining an agenda. While looking over your prepared agenda, you may realize that the meeting is not as essential as you thought — and that it is not worth adding to your employees’ already packed schedules. Often, meeting objectives can be better addressed through emails, one-on-one discussions, online chats or video conferencing.  We use Slack to keep discussions organized and to keep mindshare in one place so we can reference it later.

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What’s the Agenda?

Upon determining that a given meeting is, in fact, necessary, refine your agenda to include specific details regarding the topics you wish to cover. The more details you include, the less likely you will be to get sidetracked. Be sure to print copies of the agenda and distribute them to all meeting attendees so that they also remain focused, or use a project management tool like Basecamp to organize meeting tasks.

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Am I Respecting Everyone’s Time?

Those present at your meeting are likely on a time crunch, and thus, eager to wrap things up as soon as possible. Respect their time by abiding by your intended schedule. This may mean starting before everybody arrives (and privately discussing punctuality with those who are repeatedly late) or moving certain items to the next day’s agenda.

Bonus:  When team meetings are a place to get things done and move projects forward – rather than a time suck for your team members – everyone is more motivated to show up on time.

Sticking to the schedule is essential, of course, but it’s even more important that you create a workable schedule in the first place. Take care not to pack too much into your agenda; the temptation to get through the entire list will always be very strong, even after you’ve gone beyond your previously imposed time limit. Keep the time and date of the meeting in mind as well; early Monday meetings are rarely productive, nor are those scheduled immediately before lunch or the end of the workday.

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Does Everyone Have a Chance to Be Heard?

Play to the personalities of your teammates.  For instance, give an introverted team mate room to gather their thoughts and speak.  Or offer to take discussions offline from a team member who strays from the agenda.  When everyone feels comfortable contributing, new ideas are brought to the table, spurring innovation.  And what business wouldn’t love more of that?

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The most productive meetings are short and focused. Through careful scheduling, minimal small talk, and the creation of a detailed agenda, you and your team members can accomplish a great deal in the limited time you have available.