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This guest post is by FreeAgent, award-winning accounting software for all your small business needs.

Meetings. They’re essential, a necessary evil even, but when they’re done without a proper structure or rules, they can seriously hinder your business’s productivity. What can you do to ensure your meetings improve the way you work, rather than hinder it? Here are five things to consider that could help you run more effective business meetings.

Make sure there’s an agenda

Meetings without clearly communicated goals can be less productive (and take more time!), so make sure you’re clearly defining your meetings in advance to avoid any wasted time or effort. This article explains the importance of setting an agenda for every meeting you have (regardless of how small it is). What’s more, when agendas are published in advance, attendees can decide whether the meeting is truly relevant for them – skipping the ones they don’t need to go to and winning back some precious time.

Cut the devices

Mobiles and tablets may be important to use in your business on a daily basis, but they can also be an unwelcome distraction when it comes to meetings. So if you often find that phones get as much attention as speakers during a meeting, why not consider banning mobiles altogether? Removing distractions can help you focus your meetings, which should help reduce the overall time you spend in them.

Set time parameters

It’s incredibly easy to lose track of time in meetings unless you have a structure in place to keep you and your attendees focused. This blog explains how many successful companies set specific time limits for their meetings and incorporate non-negotiable break times at regular, defined intervals to maintain productivity. Check out these tips from Entrepreneur for keeping your meeting time short, and consider designating a timekeeper at every meeting to make sure all attendees work towards your time deadline.

Try virtual meetings

Some people still view teleconferences and virtual meetings with trepidation, possibly due to previous bad experiences with technology. But if you’re spending hours travelling to meet clients face-to-face, using a tool like Appear.in or GoToMeeting to hold a virtual meeting could help dramatically cut that wasted time. This blog gives tips on how to host an online meeting and ensure you and your attendees get the most out of it.

“Stand-ups” rather than meetings

If you find that your meetings go on for too long or don’t have a lot of energy, why not try to mix things up by standing up? This blog post explains how software company ThoughtWorks uses stand-up meetings – rather than traditional sit-down discussions – and explains how they find them so effective for maintaining productivity. Alternatively, check out this list from Management Today for some other ideas on how to make your meetings more exciting.

Want more small business tips and inspiration? Check out the FreeAgent small business guides.

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