Meetings cost you money.  Not only is your own time valuable, but if you’re meeting with employees and partners you are paying for their time as well.  Though traditional corporate culture doesn’t seem to place any value in using meeting time efficiently, as a small business owner it’s vital that you get the most out of your time.  Here are some ideas to help you make your meetings more productive:

Have a meeting with no chairs. While this may seem silly at first, this strategy will keep participants focused and on task.  Obviously, this strategy isn’t recommended for a long meeting, but for a meeting that shouldn’t last longer than 10 or 15 minutes it can be effective.  Your employees will be more likely to focus on business and then get back to their tasks at hand.

Have an agenda – and distribute it ahead of time.  You’ve obviously heard this before, but it bears repeating.  Even most inefficient meetings occasionally touch on something important, however, they also contain large chunks of time where individuals have to find notes, reference old statistics, or scramble to recall details. If you actually script out an agenda and then provide a copy of the agenda to all of your workers beforehand, all participants can prepare ahead of time.

Don’t just talk. Create a follow up plan for each and every item that you discuss, even if it is only a one sentence note.  You will be more likely to come up with a solution and not have to bring up the same issue in the next meeting. Be sure to specifically designate someone to be in charge of each item (even if it is you), and make sure they take responsibility to follow up and ensure the work is done.

Be sure the meeting ends with action items, where one person is accountable each individual action item.

Valuable time is wasted in a meeting because participants either don’t understand the point of the meeting or simply aren’t prepared. As the boss, you need to act like the moderator and keep everyone on task as well as demand preparation from all parties. Have a clear plan going for each meeting, make sure everyone gets a chance to share what is important (and only what is important), and then get out of the meeting! Everybody wins in this scenario—your employees don’t have to sit through boring and pointless meetings, planning is done efficiently, and you’re not spending money on wasted time.

How do you keep your meetings more effective?