“Let’s call a meeting!” This popular refrain echoes regularly through the offices and hallways of organizations everywhere. Problem is, said meetings are often hastily arranged and largely unproductive. Although emergency “huddles” are sometimes called for, good meetings are well planned. Here are some important points to keep in mind.

Swim with a purpose

Before you dive into calling a meeting, make sure it has a valid purpose, such as:

  • Accelerating communication among all team members, improving the overall productivity of the group,
  • Improving (or rejecting) ideas and initiatives that are under consideration, through group discussion,
  • Binding group members to a group decision, because even dissenters are more likely to back a decision that comes about via a team-based decision-making process,
  • Facilitating and strengthening the group leader’s ability to earn the respect of group members, and
  • Giving the leader the opportunity to assess each group member’s contribution in real time, which helps evaluate employee performance.

Pinpoint the most common purposes for your meetings. Is the reasoning behind these gatherings still sound?

Create a structure

Productive meetings are just the right size and shape. To help facilitate this:

Set an agenda. Even if you have a meeting every week, there will always be important topics to cover. Solicit suggestions from group members and distribute the agenda a day or so before the meeting so everyone can come prepared.

Focus on discussable topics. If the meeting consists only of a series of announcements, those can be communicated by other means. Pick agenda items that lead to two-way communication.

Choose attendees with care. Be careful not to invite employees to meetings unless they can contribute new knowledge or benefit from what’s going to be discussed.

Keep the size manageable. Being selective with the attendee roster helps keep meetings small enough so that the discussion won’t get out of control and needlessly prolong the gathering.

Don’t deny it

The subject of meetings often draws scorn and sarcasm. But there’s no denying the value of a good discussion when properly planned and executed.