For some entrepreneurs, meetings are equivalent to exercising, they're not fun but you know they're necessary. Sometimes meetings are quick and to-the-point and other times they take a good portion of your day. But, no matter how long the meeting lasts, what's most important is what you get out of it.

You have deadlines to meet, tons of tasks to complete and an entire team to manage. Time is money and if not handled correctly, meetings can eat up a lot of precious hours. To help you get the most out of team meetings, you and your employees can follow this five-step guide. You'll quickly notice you and your team will lead more productive meetings, more often.

1. Develop and distribute an agenda.

Preparing a meeting agenda in advance allows you to set up a solid game plan. You can list all the important items you wish to discuss and the goals you'd like to meet at the end of the meeting. Make it concise and even insert fill-in-the blanks for things you'd like to know.

On the back of the agenda you can make a list of numbered blanks for action items. This allows meeting attendees to write down anything they need to act on as a result of the meeting, and it keeps everything in one place.

Once the agenda is finalized, send it to your team. They will be able to see exactly what you want to discuss, what questions you may have and what kind of ideas or concerns they might want to bring up. An agenda helps everyone feel organized about what to expect and what will be expected of them during the meeting.

2. Plan around the agenda.

The agenda is simply a list of discussion points. It's essential to have everyone review the agenda in advance of the meeting to prepare a list of questions, answers or advice beside each item. This will keep everyone on topic, discussing everything that needs to be discussed before moving on the next item on the agenda.

At the end of each topic ask everyone, "Does anybody have any questions before we move on?" This is the chance to bring up any other questions while the information is still fresh on everybody's minds.

3. Go "dark" before each meeting.

Encourage your team to take their agenda with them and go "dark", or step away from distractions, to focus on bringing updates and new ideas to the table. For example, when you decide to have a brainstorming meeting, ask everyone to devote 10-15 minutes of brainstorming shortly before the meeting to prepare a list of ideas to discuss. They can even add their ideas and notes to their copy of the agenda as a quick reference guide.

This will allow you and your team to jump right into the meeting and go around the table to discuss ideas while they're top of mind. Instead of waiting long periods of time for the next person to speak up, everyone will be prepared to talk through ideas and you'll have a much greater chance of deciding the best course of action that same day. The energy in the room will be contagious and you'll be happy to see how much more productive these meetings can get.

4. Eliminate outside distractions.

Meetings are created to devote a certain amount of time to discuss important matters. Respect that time by not bringing any outside distractions with you, like your phone or laptop. Otherwise, colleagues might think it's rude or disrespectful to see you typing away or constantly checking your phone.

However, because some people may need an electronic device to take notes or keep watch on email, be sure keep it on a silent setting so no loud notifications sound off. Also, if you do bring electronic devices, tell everyone at the beginning of the meeting that you'll be using it to take notes. By not bringing devices or warning people ahead of time about why you're bringing a device, will prevent colleagues from wondering if you're paying attention.

5. End meetings by repeating key takeaways.

As the leader of the meeting, be sure to use the last five minutes of every meeting to quickly summarize key takeaways. This helps make the most important bits of information crystal clear. Repeating what everyone is expected to do or present by the next meeting is a great way to wrap up a meeting and keep everyone on task.

Getting value out of meetings should be the main priority, don't have meetings for things you can quickly discuss over phone or email. Make sure your meetings are set up for important discussion topics and high productivity. Have your team help you use this time wisely to work together and move through projects smoothly.

Published on: Aug 10, 2017