Are meetings where ideas go to die? If your meetings have let you down, you’re not alone. Employees often resent meetings: a study by the American Psychological Association showed that people “who tend to be highly task and goal oriented were most negatively affected by meetings.” It is true that sometimes we need to meet: not all decisions are easy to make over other methods of communication. If meetings are a necessity for an organization, how can you make them less painful and more productive?

Send Out Information Before the Meeting

Preparation is key for most important actions in life, so why would you enter a meeting without knowing the facts behind the discussion?

According to the Business 2 Community blog, “if people can’t prepare for the meeting, they will not feel confident taking part in it.” Those who need time for reflection will be far better prepared if they can take some time to prepare before the meeting begins. This might involve thinking about questions or doing reading so that they feel ready for a discussion.

Reduce Travel Time

Another meeting? If you’re connecting with people outside your immediate office environment, a single meeting can eat up a large part of your day. Use video or phone conferencing or a simple person-to-person phone call when you can. If you need to meet in person, consider creating a walking meeting to add invigorating exercise into the mix. When you’re with others in a room, consider adding a no-device policy so that everyone who is physically present is also mentally present and not checking their messages.

Know Why You’re Meeting

According to the University of Wisconsin’s leadership support team, properly planning a meeting is key to its success: “an agenda helps focus the group’s work toward achieving desired outcomes.” Be conscious about who you meet with as well. An article in Entrpreneur Magazine states that “it is important to have the right people in the right meetings for the right reasons.” When you’re meeting about a focused discussion topic or action and you bring the right people into the room, good decisions happen.

Consciously Facilitate Meetings

Have you ever been in a meeting where a single person took center stage for the entire meeting? Have you ever attended a meeting where a few individuals’ comments derailed the entire agenda, and you spent the time critiquing rather than creating? Just about everyone has been in those meetings. A successful gathering of people must be consciously facilitated. Keep people on time, ensure that everyone has the opportunity to speak, and allow critiques at a designated time when they’ll provide useful contributions, not as constant interruptions.

Look for Action and Facilitate Follow Up

Long meetings that are full of discussion are sometimes just what is needed, but at other times, a brief meeting that’s focused on action is what’s required. According to the Wall Street Journal, if you want to have efficient meetings, you should “block half the time you usually do for meetings and keep strict time.” There’s always something else to say, but organized facilitation, strict timekeeping, and follow up items that are delegated to a specific individual can help you not only hold efficient meetings but facilitate change.

While meetings are ubiquitous, few people have training and experience that helps them make meetings more productive. By improving the way that you do meetings in your workplace, you can improve morale, efficiency, and even gain time for creativity and reflection. Turn your business meetings into a forum for creative discussion, problem-solving, and action.