How to Run Productive Meetings and Get Things DoneMeetings can be a great way to exchange information and brainstorm creative solutions to business challenges. Or they can be time-consuming sinkholes, where your best people sit around like zombies, and nothing ever gets done.

If this sounds familiar, Dorie Clark, a marketing strategist who teaches at the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University, has some valuable advice to create productive meetings. In a The Huffington Post piece, Clark outlines seven ways to run productive meetings that actually get stuff done.

Productive Meetings Must Have a Reason

You and your staff need to get together to offer updates, look at general strategy or address a specific issue, but not all at the same time.

Sharply limit the time you spend on updates or they will not be productive meetings. Schedule periodic sessions to examine broader strategy. Feel free to “call for a targeted ‘ad hoc’ meeting to deal with a particular issue that warrants further discussion.

Bring People Together Who Have a Reason for Being There

The person calling the meeting should have a clear idea of who needs to be there and who does not need to be there. Make sure “everyone relevant is in attendance, and no one is there without a clear understanding of what they arre expected to contribute,” Clark says.

Everyone else can be informed of the meeting’s results with a brief email after the fact.

Group Agenda Items into Four Categories

Clark suggests grouping items on a written meeting agenda into four distinct categories:

  • Consent. “Procedural matters you can get out of the way in seconds...approval of minutes or other formalities.”
  • Discussions. This is “the real meat of the meeting."
  • Decisions. Determining the next course of action. “In effective meetings, 95 percent of your time should consist of discussion and decisions based on them.”
  • Information. This part can be left to the end of the meeting, when people discuss recent activities, planned business trips, and other business-related topics.

Start and End on Time

The person who calls the meeting is responsible for ensuring every meeting starts and ends at the proscribed time.

No one wants to waste their time arriving at 3 p.m. if the meeting will not get going until 3:15 p.m.,” Clark notes.

Stick to your guns on this, even if it takes “shaming” key participants who arrive late.

Call for Spin-Off Meetings as Needed

Critical issues may arise that do not fit into the scheduled agenda. Identify those issues, and schedule a “spin-off,” ad hoc meeting to address the matter later on.

Keep Things Moving

Nothing saps people’s energy more than sitting around listening to someone ramble on about irrelevant topics. The meeting leader must curtail such occurrences, ending things on a polite note (“I am glad you brought this up, but we are all on a tight schedule, so let’s move on to the next subject”).

If the meeting leader is unable to develop this skill, “appoint a designee in the meeting to ensure progress.”

Record Next Steps

“Every meeting must have a secretary who records the basics of the discussion and—most importantly—the next steps everyone has committed to.”

A record of the meeting should be emailed to all participants within 24 hours. This helps keep people focused on what lies ahead.

Leading productive meetings is, Clark says, “fundamental to overall business success.”

Asserting control during and after the meeting helps achieve this objective.

What are your secrets to leading productive meetings?