A group of people in businesswear sit smiling and laughing around a white conference table in a glass-walled room. The table is scattered with large charts on paper, a couple of clipboards, and several tall water bottles. Through the glass behind the head of the table is a staircase leading to a higher floor.
By the time your meeting wraps up, participants should have a list of next steps with which to move forward. It also helps to have notes to distribute to absent team members. — Getty Images/Martinns

As much as many people bemoan meetings, gathering your team together to move a project forward is sometimes necessary. Fortunately, there are strategies that can make meetings a little less painful and a lot more productive. If your team is battling meeting fatigue, here are some tactics you can implement to make meetings better.

[Read more: 7 Best Practices for Hybrid Staff Meetings]

5 elements of good meetings

1. A clear agenda and objective.

To get value out of each meeting, make it clear what you hope to achieve. Before the meeting starts, circulate the primary and (if necessary) secondary objectives to ensure your meeting addresses the key decisions that need to happen. The agenda should also set the structure for the meeting. Do you need to take time to introduce everyone, or can you dive right into the discussion? Make sure everyone is prepped well in advance for the purpose and desired result of the meeting.

2. A pared-down list of participants.

Often, meetings are derailed by too many cooks in the kitchen. Send meeting invites to a limited number of stakeholders who absolutely must be in the room.

“Only people who are directly connected to the expected outcome should attend the meeting. That way, you will not waste other people’s time and productivity. This will also keep the numbers as low as possible, which means less interruptions and distractions,” wrote Lifehack.

If you believe a wider group of people need to know about the outcome of the meeting, make sure to circulate notes or a video recording after the fact to keep the group aligned.

[Read more: A Quick Guide to Hosting Online Business Meetings]

3. A point person or moderator.

It’s helpful to assign a specific person to act as the moderator for the meeting, ensuring the group sticks to the agenda and works toward the objective. The person who planned the meeting does not necessarily have to be the moderator. But, especially for video or hybrid meetings, it’s helpful to have one person in the room making sure everyone is heard and keeping track of time.

Only people who are directly connected to the expected outcome should attend the meeting.

Lianne Martha Maiquez Laroya, Lifehack

4. A device policy.

If your meeting is in person, clarify ahead of time which devices can be brought to the meeting. Too often, team members bring their tablets or laptops and spend time writing emails rather than paying attention. Or a phone rings and a key decision maker needs to step out of the room, rendering the agenda useless.

Alternatively, some devices can help push the meeting forward. If you are meeting with a team of creatives, it can be helpful to bring slides or mock-ups to give the group something to work with. If you do have devices in play, make sure you let everyone know which software, documents, or video tools they should have pre-loaded before the meeting so they can participate effectively.

5. Actionable next steps.

All meetings should be wrapped up with a list of next steps, as well as assigned team members who will carry the results forward.

“In our organization, every leadership meeting ends with a review of a W.W.W. list captured during the discussion. It stands for ‘What needs to be done,’ ‘Who is accountable for doing it’ and ‘When it will be done by.’ This simple tactic has transformed our meetings into meaningful vehicles for solving issues and implementing change,” Tom Conlon, Co-founder of North Street creative agency, told Forbes.

Many organizations send around meeting notes to make sure everyone is aligned on these next steps and so those who weren’t in attendance are still informed. If you work in a hybrid office, this can be a helpful way to keep everyone on the same page.

Ultimately, meetings should be used to reach a quorum and push decision making forward. When there’s a discussion that needs to take place and can be held more productively live, use a meeting agenda, moderator, and focused outcome to make sure your meeting serves its purpose.

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Published October 13, 2022