Meetings can be a boring waste of time. This is because too many managers call meetings short notice for little or no reason. For a meeting to be effective, a manager has to plan it, prepare team members for it and keep the discussion focused.

When planning a meeting, a manager has to define the objectives and desired outcomes. There is no point in a manager organizing a meeting unless they know what they are trying to achieve. Make sure a group meeting is required, as meetings can be a waste of time if a few telephone calls, emails or one-on-ones meetings will suffice or even work better.

Once the topics to be covered are clearly defined, a manager can consider the best format for the discussion. At this point, try to estimate the length of the meeting, as people will want to know how much time should be allocated for the meeting. Produce a carefully-scripted agenda and give each items on it a start and stop time.

Give Advance Warning

It is the manager’s job to create a list of those expected to attend the meeting. This should define the role each participant will play in the meeting. Circulate copies of the agenda in advance so that participants have time to plan and prepare for the meeting and gather any relevant documents they may need.

When selecting a venue for the meeting, ensure it is big enough, comfortable and will serve the purpose. Provide refreshments, create a warm atmosphere conducive to interaction and keep meetings interesting by trying to do something a little different and something new. Be creative and use various tools and activities, such as speakers, books or DVDs to make meetings fun as well as productive.

Rather than take minutes of the meeting himself, a manager should appoint someone to do the job. It is important to record who attended, the problems discussed, key decisions reached, the next steps to be taken, who needs to accomplish a task, what it has to achieve and by when.

Establish Ground Rules

The start of the meeting is the time to establish the ground rules. Explain the purpose and desired outcomes, what is expected of each participant, how participants will be heard, how conflict will be resolved, which topics, if any, are confidential and when the meeting will end. It its the job of management to show that the ideas, opinions and questions of team members are welcomed and valued

During the meeting, a manager should clarify and paraphrase key ideas and ask for different points of view. Using brainstorming techniques and record ideas on a flip chart, but keep notes succinct. Bullet points, colors and graphics can help achieve this.

Once of a manager’s key jobs is to keep the meeting focused on agenda topics. Don’t waffle or become distracted or sidetracked. At the same time, a manager must not stifle creativity. Ask open-ended questions to encourage team members to participate and assign jobs throughout the course of the meeting.

Summarize Key Points

The manager has to guide the direction of the meeting, so acknowledge and reinforce constructive contributions, summarize key points and help the group achieve consensus and reach conclusions. At the end of the meeting, summarize the accomplishments, review the assigned tasks and ensure everyone is aware of their duties. Afterwards, management should evaluate the meeting, look at what worked and what needs to be improved, and monitor progress made on each job assigned during the meeting.

Meetings can be used to discuss and resolve a whole host of issues, from staffing levels and career development paths to changes in employment law or the role staffing and employment agencies play within a company. It is the job of a manager to be creative enough to keep meetings interesting, focused and productive throughout their career.