Effective office meetings need structure, order, and flow. Communicate properly before, during, and after meetings to get the most of your time and energy. Engage with your team members at every stage of the process – and ask for feedback on your meeting techniques.

With input from your colleagues and these 11 tips, you’ll be a meeting ninja in no time!

#1 – Define a Clear Purpose

When you invite people to a meeting, define a clear goal for the event – as well as clear time/dates (including end times). You can go a step further and set end times for each agenda item.

Make sure your invitation includes a simple purpose, an agenda, and the relevant reading. You don’t want people to simply show up to meetings – you want them to arrive fully aware of all relevant background information.

Before you hit send on that group email invitation, ask yourself: “Is a meeting really the best format for addressing this issue?”

#2 – Be Prepared

You (and everyone else on your team) must know exactly why you’re meeting – and how to arrive with the appropriate data and background information. Yes, you need to read up ahead of time (and expect others to do the same).

However, much of the relevant information your attendees need to know is in the heads of those attendees!

#3 – Prepare a Summary

Ask each of your team members to create a summary of the work they’ve done to date – and provide a list of solutions/next steps. Have attendees share/exchange these summaries; for example, each person can read another attendee’s summary out loud to the group. This method gets everyone up to speed quickly (people are less likely to extemporize when reading others’ summaries).

Even better, ask everyone to contribute work summaries to a group email (they can simply reply to your group meeting invitation). This way, everyone is up-to-date before the meeting even starts.

#4 – Hold Interactive Meetings

Nothing makes your team’s eyes glaze over like reading a prepared speech or lecturing word-by-word from a PowerPoint screen. If you simply want to share information, don’t schedule a meeting – simply send out a group email. If you want to ensure people read your emails, ask them to reply to them with insightful comments. You can even ask people for feedback on recent emails when you see them around the office.

Have meetings because you need your team to work together in the same space.

Have meetings because you need their various perspectives on your operations and new endeavors.

Have meetings to brainstorm – not to lecture your team or transmit information in a top-down manner.

#5 – Keep Good Records

Choose someone to take notes during the meeting. Each attendee should get a copy of these minutes as soon as possible after the event.

No matter how engaged your team is in a meeting, you must record the insights, strategies, and action steps. No one wants to rehash the same issues in your next meeting because everyone forgot to address them.

In short, record-keeping provides two essential post-meeting elements: reference and accountability.

Coach your notetaker to pay special attention to names, dates/times, and specific action steps. After meetings, both managers and team members need to know exactly who will do what – and when.

#6 – Accountability Updates and New Commitments

Early in the meeting (not ahead of time), briefly ask each person to report on the action steps they committed to at the last meeting.

Throughout the meeting, point out to your attendees (and your record-keeper, in particular) when someone commits to an action step. Make sure everyone gets a copy of this information in your meeting minutes – and celebrates their successes at the next meeting.

#7 – Make Appropriate Assignments

In addition to accepting voluntary commitments to action steps, you’ll probably need to assign projects to certain individuals. Consider each person’s workload and don’t rush – though you can hand out tasks in meetings – you can also attach assignments to the “action steps” section of your agenda. This will give you a little time after each meeting (while the notetaker is compiling the minutes) to think through a good workflow for each team member.

It’s good to brainstorm in the moment – that’s why you’re holding this meeting. However, delay difficult tasking decisions for a few hours after the event.

#8 – Balance the Conversation

Inevitably, some people will try to dominate the meeting – while others sit idly by. Make no secret of your “everyone-talks” policy and define meeting etiquette. Politely and firmly tell talkative people their input is valuable but you need to hear from the others.

Encourage shy/distant people to take a more active role – especially by asking questions that relate to their expertise. People are most comfortable talking about what they know.

#9 – Provide Short Summaries

When your group finishes talking about an agenda item, offer a quick summary. This simple action helps your notetaker understand which action items you’ve approved – and which you’ve decided not to undertake.

#10 – Keep it Short and Sweet

Make sure every meeting ends on time. Team members are much more likely to engage in meetings when they know they can trust you to keep your word regarding meeting length.

Remember – people who are impatient to get back to work are showing a desire to help the team. They know what they need to do next – and want to complete these obligations in a timely fashion!

Keep everyone accountable (including yourself) by logging your meeting times/durations, action items, and much more with Toggl’s free time-tracking software!

#11 – Solicit Feedback and Optimize Your Tactics

After the meeting, take a moment to get your notetaker’s feedback. This person plays an “observer” role and can have useful (and unexpected) perspectives. Remember to ask the big question: “Did we use our meeting time productively?” (You could even ask this question of all attendees in a follow-up email.)

For example, if you and your team have a tendency to draw out meetings unnecessarily, get their feedback. Few people (usually the ones who do too much of the talking) like to be stuck in long meetings when there’s work to be done.

If you get feedback about long, boring meetings, commit to the tactic of setting a time limit for each agenda item and “tabling” long conversations for later meetings (or side discussions between those few people most interested in the subject).

By listening to your team in and out of meetings, you can easily optimize your meeting methods – and elicit the most creativity and interaction from your team members!