Meetings are a necessary evil for any organization, but they sometimes seem to offer more hassle than value. In a new Harvard Business Review article, corporate trainer Paul Axtell offers advice on how to lead more effective meetings.

  • Meetings should be a time to discuss real issues—not simply update the group about information that easily could be shared via email. Canvas the team to develop a list of topics from which you can craft an agenda. What are the vital initiatives—and which are in jeopardy? What does the team need to learn? What’s keeping people awake at night?
  • Limit distractions to encourage meaningful participation. The senior people in the meeting must model attentive verbal and nonverbal behavior. If they have side conversations, bring other work or constantly check technology, it sends the message that this meeting doesn’t really matter to them. Consider putting an agreement in place to limit technology during meetings.
  • Don’t forget to follow through. Make sure you have closure on each topic and nail down the next steps. Send out a summary of the meeting before the end of the day. Assign someone to follow up with everyone between meetings to see that they are making progress on the action items assigned to them—aim for an 85 percent completion rate.

For more tips, see the full HBR article: “5 Common Complaints About Meetings and What to Do About Them.”