Host a Constructive Meeting in 9 Steps

Accomplish tasks and avoid wasting your colleagues’ time.

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Step 6. Stick to your agenda. An effective moderator has to keep the meeting moving and put the kibosh on tangents, from funny anecdotes to even work-related issues. "Personal agendas are a significant thing that derails meetings and takes them in an entirely different direction," Heathfield says.

The meeting's attendees can share the responsibility by economizing their words wisely. "The more people who speak just to be heard, the more people are going to tune out," Leist notes. "Be sure that when you speak up, you're going to contribute to the subject matter at hand."

Step 7. Stand up for short meetings. Office employees tend to sit too much as it is. Spend a 15-, 20-, or 30-minute meeting on your feet to get the blood circulating and inspire brevity. "You tend not to get complacent. You're going to discuss the discussion points and then move on," Leist says.

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Step 8. Give breaks—and treats—for long meetings. Sometimes a half-hour jam session won't cut it. But powwows that last longer than 60 minutes should also allot break time. And Heathfield recommends providing snacks to keep energy up for completing the tasks at hand.

You might also try opening a lengthy session with a team-building exercise. "I came up with something last year called my 'one-word icebreaker' and my audiences have gone hysterically happy over it," Heathfield says. "You could go around the room and ask people to describe how they see the company in one word. It helps to get people energized and motivated."

Step 9. End on time. Or better yet, end early. Heathfield recommends concluding the traditional hour-long meeting on the 50-minute mark instead. "That gives people a 10-minute window to make it to whatever else they have scheduled," she says.

"The minute you go over is the second that you're implying you don't care about other people's time," Leist adds.