By Bryanne Lawless, owner of BLND Public Relations.

We've all been there - sitting in a last minute all-hands meeting that was only scheduled to discuss another upcoming meeting. There's no real agenda, items have been delegated to thin air, and two hours later, no one has any idea what they're doing there in the first place.

Since when did meetings become the epitome of workday disruption rather than a productive way to pursue company and brand growth? Unproductive meetings are becoming ubiquitous across companies small and large, and they present challenges in autonomy, connecting and learning.

These three aspects are especially important when running a public relations firm like I do. Pieces are constantly moving within each account, so it's important to make sure the team as a whole is not only managing their tasks, but understanding the bigger picture at the same time.

Here's how you can reclaim your meetings with five productive steps:

Make Someone Directly Responsible for Specific Tasks

The most effective way to ensure nothing falls through the cracks is by making one person directly responsible for each project or task. This way, you can be certain that it will get done. The person you assign the project to should be someone who understands the message clearly, and who is able to delegate organized instructions and follow up with their team as the project progresses.

By implementing this method, you're also lessening the amount of people reporting directly to their supervisors, making everyone's time more efficient. At my company, everyone is held accountable for specific clients, and they are the point person who makes sure everything on that account is handled properly.

If I delegate work to account executives, they have the autonomy to delegate those tasks to interns, but the account executives know they are the ones responsible for accomplishing the tasks by the deadline.

Create an Agenda and Circulate It 24 Hours Prior to Meeting

No matter how organized, meticulous, or aware you or your team members are of the moving pieces in each project, there needs to be a specific sense of direction for every meeting. Team members will benefit from staying on track, and will better understand the priorities of each task. At my agency, our agendas include:

  • The date, time, duration and location of the meeting
  • A clear meeting header
  • No more than five talking points to review under each topic

We've tried different formats in the past, but we find this format to be the most productive. No one has a reason to be ill-prepared because we've labeled exactly when, where, and what will be discussed.

Be sure to also circulate your agenda at least 24 hours prior to the meeting in order to answer any questions or add any last-minute items that pop up. This also prepares team members to answer to their respective projects and tasks.

Set Strict Meeting Times, and Stick To Them

Set starting and ending times to ensure the team accomplishes the goals of the meeting before it's over and avoids any tangents or unnecessary discussions. Meetings should last 30 minutes maximum, but if it needs to go on longer, take an intermission for team members to regroup and refresh before diving back in.

Ask Your Team to Recap During the Last Two Minutes

By the end of the meeting, each team member should have a clear understanding of what the next steps are for the project or task. To ensure everyone is on the same page, use the last two minutes of the allotted meeting time to have each delegated member provide a 15-20 second summary of what steps they are responsible for.

This will help avoid smaller one-off meetings later. Streamlining your meeting process is a great way to help alleviate stress and disorganization within your company, allowing team members to feel more secure in their work.

Create meetings that allow your team to be involved and connected to the project at hand, and provide a supportive environment that fosters collaboration and purposeful dialogue.

Bryanne Lawless is the founder of BLND Public Relations, a boutique agency based in Los Angeles. Bryanne has successfully launched multiple lifestyle brands, restaurants, and fitness studios, as well as executed high-end events both locally and nationally.