We all know that meetings, done wrong, can be deadly, killing both passion and productivity. While the purpose of meetings is to create engagement and forward momentum, traditional long-winded huddles around a conference table--where ringleaders drone on for too long, factions advocate for their own position, and agendas lack clear structure--can do just the opposite.

Fortunately, there's a more modern, healthier style of company-wide meet-up that's gaining traction throughout the industry: the weekly "Town Hall."

A good weekly Town Hall is short--not more than 15 to 30 minutes--and doesn't require much planning at all. The key is to keep them simple and tight, ensuring that they don't slip into longer meetings. Similar to a daily standup meeting, a Town Hall gives the company a chance to quickly cover the most important things happening right now along with any changes or new developments. It's a weekly opportunity to over-communicate your mission, strategy, and priorities. Done well, a weekly Town Hall can also improve transparency, efficiency, and engagement:

Improves transparency. Nothing leads to dysfunction and disengagement faster than when people feel out of the loop. Companies can counteract this potential negative outcome by ensuring that each and every employee clearly knows the company's mission and what's most important right now. Enter the Town Hall meeting, which allows the leadership team to share information, provide clarity, and calm fears by creating alignment within the company on a weekly basis.

At Pluralsight, we hold a company-wide Town Hall meeting every Friday. We connect all of our remote offices and employees over video conferencing. These get-togethers speed by in just 15-20 minutes, with quick remarks from the executive team, followed by a brief presentation or two by teams who have something important to share. We usually end each meeting with a short inspirational customer story followed by some open Q&A.

The returns are great for investing in these group chats each week. By providing consistent updates from the leadership team and open opportunities for everyone to present and ask questions, employees gain a high level of clarity about how the company is progressing, what the executive team is doing, and why we're doing it. In other words, these meetings provide greatly improved transparency, opening communication channels throughout the company to foster better understanding of the mission and the decisions we're making every day.

Adds efficiency. One of the most frustrating things about traditional meetings is that they're often viewed as time-wasters--because they are. A study in Management Resource Review found that employees feel unhappy with meetings that "reduce their work-related resources," constraining their time due to lack of structure and resulting in hours frittered away unproductively. In short, most meetings aren't lean; some experts on lean methodology recommend trying to cut projected meeting times in half.

As a leaner and more agile form of meeting, Town Halls solve these problems by making the most of everyone's valuable minutes. Information is shared with the whole company at once, on the fly, in short order, without extra time for interest to wane or minds to wander. Done right, a weekly Town Hall can replace many other meetings, leaving more time to spend on creativity and innovation, as proven by Silicon Valley's success with them. This open-air environment not only promotes transparency and trust, but also helps to make sure that everyone is collaborating on the right things at the right time to push the company forward. This helps to ensure better company-wide alignment and that no effort or energy gets wasted working at cross-purposes. In other words, it improves efficiency.

Promotes engagement. What does all of this improved transparency and efficiency lead to? Better engagement, stronger intrinsic motivation, and a culture where autonomy can thrive because everyone can see the company's North Star clearly. A regular Town Hall meeting breeds trust in leadership--and each other--by giving everyone in the company more access to information and decision-making. When companies reduce ambiguity and speculation in this way, the result is the diffusion of potential seeds of negativity before they can take root. In other words, it leads to a no-fear culture, which improves overall engagement, and ultimately, results.

Done consistently and often, a weekly Town Hall can add a heartbeat to any company, helping to generate a sense of cohesion and alignment throughout the organization. It's easy to get started. Simply pick a day and start next week!

Published on: May 5, 2015
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.