We’ve all attended meetings that failed to start on time, ran way over, or simply felt like a waste of time because the agenda was not followed. When meetings get off track or drag on, people start thinking about other, more important things they could be doing.

So what’s the secret to an engaging, results-driven, on-schedule meeting where everyone is motivated to participate? Here are seven tips for keeping everyone tuned in and intent on giving their best throughout the meeting:

1. Issue an agenda so attendees can come prepared. 2. Ask for a volunteer to be a timekeeper for your meetings—make it his or her job to remind you of agenda item time limits. This frees you to focus on content. 3. Start and end on time! Keep to the agenda items and minimize off-topic conversations. 4. Establish ground rules for more effective meetings, including having only one person talk at a time—no side conversations. 5. Rotate the chairperson at each meeting to improve team members’ meeting-management skills and to get them more involved. 6. Gain consensus on decisions. 7. At the end of each meeting, have team members rate its effectiveness and ask for their input on ideas for improvement.

The key to successful meetings is to get attendees to agree that you will all operate by these guidelines. No one wants to participate in meetings that they feel are a waste of their time, so get their support in making sure that everyone is engaged, attentive, and, at the very least, awake.

Keith Ayers President Integro Leadership Institute West Chester, Pa.

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