Hardly anyone loves meetings, and some actively dread them. But because meetings are often necessary, it’s smart to know how to get in, get it done, and get out as efficiently as possible. Even better, the whole board will be thrilled if heated debates or sidetracking into unrelated topics can be avoided.

With advance planning and careful execution, you can do exactly that. Your team’s time is valuable, so most of the meeting prep should happen in the days or weeks leading up to it.

First, work to reshape your company’s perspective about meetings. The focus should be on building up your team and working together to enhance the company’s growth. The atmosphere should be invigorating and challenging, not stagnant or tedious. Hold onto that concept as you plan your meeting. Then, incorporate some of the following tips, depending on your team’s style and the purpose of your session.

  1. Brainstorm the purpose of the meeting; what do you want to accomplish?
  2. Don’t wing it. Create a specific agenda.
  3. Delegate responsibility; you needn’t run the entire meeting yourself.
  4. Choose the day and time strategically.
  5. Ask team members for input ahead of time; this prevents the meeting from dragging.
  6. Assign advance “homework” in order to prevent miscommunication and delays during the meeting.
  7. Invite guest speakers to share specialized knowledge or experience.
  8. If you anticipate conflict, give team members an opportunity to consider topics ahead of time.
  9. Carefully consider which team members actually need to be in the room. More members often means more discussion. Plus, it’s difficult to dis-invite people later.
  10. If you do need to scale back, be clear about the reasons for exclusion. Again, focus on the needs of the company.
  11. Share the meeting agenda company-wide (except for highly confidential information) to keep others in the loop.
  12. Avoid reviewing the same tedious metrics week after week unless necessary.
  13. Create an atmosphere of healthy debate vs. conflict. Team members should feel comfortable voicing disagreement, and supported in sharing alternate viewpoints.
  14. Distribute written briefs, invite each team member to catch up, and then discuss.
  15. Read up on mediation or teamwork styles, and adopt a “language” for your team.
  16. Allow time for your team to adjust to changes (about three months).
  17. Follow up with a survey, asking for specific member feedback on the meeting.

And one final piece of advice: If you’ve never attended a well-run, energetic meeting, it can be difficult to imagine what one would feel like. As you network with other startup leaders, ask them about their meeting strategies. Inquire about productive meeting practices, and keep your eyes, ears, and mind open. Mingling with those whom you admire can be an effective strategy of its own.

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