Meetings can be invaluable, but they can also be disorganized, dull, too long and, occasionally, a total waste of time.

To get the most out of your meetings—whether with employees, clients or someone else—put some thought and planning into how you handle them. We asked business owners their top advice for holding a productive meeting. Here’s how they responded:


Create an agenda, and stick to it

My top tip for an effective meeting is to have a plan. List the items you want to cover in the meeting, share them with participants in advance, get their input, and then—most importantly—stick to the plan. The worst thing is when people derail the meeting. If everyone knows the plan, there is a much greater likelihood you’ll have a quick, successful meeting.

Deborah Sweeney, CEO, MyCorporation, Calabasas, California


Require participants to prepare

Don’t just ask people to come together and brainstorm. Instead, ask them to prepare and deliver something specific at the meeting, such as three ideas for an event to promote a new service.

—Lindsay Anvik, CEO, See Endless, Charlotte, North Carolina


Ask questions

The worst meetings are those where one person talks and everyone else sits there looking disinterested. You can make meetings more engaging by asking questions. We often open up the floor for our team members to give their feedback, and we have found that we come up with better solutions that way.

Mike Sims, co-founder and CEO, ThinkLions, Oak Park, Michigan


Maximize tech tools

I use various online meeting tools, including Zoom, GoToMeeting and Skype for Business. Each system has pros and cons and should be tested thoroughly before the meeting, especially if attendees are in an area with questionable internet connections. Since I work globally, I have found that there are often specific technical requirements country by country for international meetings.

Patrice Samara, COO, Wordeee, New York City


Use screen sharing

Our team’s meetings involve poring over spreadsheets, client CRMs, electronic notes, task managers, emails and other communications. Even though we prepare an agenda, the meetings tend to get very messy if we aren’t all looking at exactly the same thing at the same time. I started using a screen-sharing system so attendees weren’t clicking around scrambling to find things or trying to remember details that could be verified with a click.

Earl White, co-founder, House Heroes, Sunny Isles Beach, Florida


Understand your role as leader

As meeting leader, my role varies depending on the type of meeting I’m facilitating. The key objective of a meeting may be problem-solving, decision-making, planning, presenting or providing feedback. Each type serves a different purpose and outcome, and if you cannot identify which type of meeting you are holding—and your role as the meeting leader—it will inevitably fail to produce the result you intended and in some cases will even be destructive.

Robert Morlot, managing partner, Clearwater Business Advisers, Tampa, Florida


Gather meeting feedback

At the end of each meeting, we have our team members individually rate it on a 1-10 scale and ask them to provide a reason for their rating. This helps us know what to keep doing and what to stop doing.

Shawn Breyer, owner, Breyer Home Buyers, Suwanee, Georgia


Include physical activity

We believe strongly in walking meetings, and it keeps the time very efficient (especially when it’s cold in Boston). Something about stretching your legs gets the creative juices flowing.

Tarek Alaruri, co-founder and COO, Fairmarkit, Boston


What do you do to make your meetings productive and effective? Let us know in the comments section below!

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