Running a productive meeting requires more than just following Robert’s Rules of Order. To avoid becoming a serious waste of time for many people, a meeting needs to have a shape and accomplish something. Young people just beginning to attend meetings often believe it is an honor to be involved. Everyone else wants to get it over with and move on to something more productive.

The chairperson makes the difference in the quality of a meeting.

How people ultimately feel about meetings depends mostly on how the meeting is conducted. Poorly run meetings are seen as avoid on a busy day. If the leader allows the session to meander from topic to topic or some loudmouth to monopolize every issue, the meeting is likely to become dull and unproductive. The chairperson makes all of the difference. Learning to run a successful meeting requires learning a few rules and applying them.

The agenda is the heart of the business meeting.

A great meeting needs a well written and planned agenda. The agenda sets the pattern, tone, and purpose of the meeting. A meeting that does not follow an agenda never achieves its goals. An agenda defines the progression of the meeting and puts a limit on what is to be discussed. Sticking to the list is critical. Reaching the end of the agenda should signal the end of the meeting. If new business is raised from the floor, the chairperson should note it for the next meeting.

Limit the time allowed for the committee and special reports.

Special reports should not be discussed unless necessary. A time limit should be placed on all reports. If an item is large, you may want to have a special meeting just for that item at a later time. This will allow adequate time to discuss the potential intricate issues of a broad topic.

Prioritize discussion items.

If several things are needing serious consideration, assign them a priority. Allow discussion to go longer for high priority items and less as the priority decreases — list items on the agenda in order of preference. Low priority items can be held for future meetings if needed.

Establish a time limit for the meeting.

Busy people need to know how to fit the meeting into their schedule. Try to end the meeting on time. By allowing a meeting to run over, you may create a problem for other essential items on the attendee’s daily schedule.

Start on time.

Starting on time shows respect for those in attendance. Do not wait for late arrivers without a good cause. Avoid going over missed items for tardy people. This punishes people for coming on time. The minutes will reflect what was missed when they are distributed later. Starting late encourages people to arrive late.

Use unusual starting times.

Doing this causes people to arrive on time for the meeting. Most people will round 3:05 pm back to 3 pm. The person who leaves typically for a meeting at its start time will leave at the earlier time and arrive before the meeting begins. Those who are always on time will find a use for that extra few minutes.

Put one on one meetings in odd places.

Meeting on the elevator can be a great way to keep the meeting short and do two things at once. You may want to meet as you walk down the hall or head out to your car. Any meeting like this can be productive, limited, and help use up dead time.