Meetings are ironically one of the biggest time-wasters in the modern office – but they don’t have to be! You can effectively share important information about upcoming news or projects without taking a huge chunk out of the day’s productivity, but it takes some degree of forethought and planning.

Leadership Strategies specializes in helping companies large and small manage their time effectively in meetings. Though many of our clients prefer hiring meeting facilitators to alleviate this added strain, it can be done in-house as well. Here are a few tips for ensuring effective time management in your next meeting.

Create an Outline

Establish clear goals for yourself and then create a rough outline of how you want your meeting to progress according to those goals. Include an agenda with time estimates for each topic that needs to be addressed. Block out the absolute maximum amount of time that you can spend and plan for at least half an hour of unanticipated dialogue and questions. Then, divvy the remaining time accordingly, assigning the most amount of time to more complex or important topic areas.

Prepare for and Avoid Disruptions

It’s important to anticipate disturbances early on in the meeting so that you can prepare accordingly for them. If meeting rooms are shared spaces, ask that others work elsewhere to avoid disruptive conversations. Ask attendees to power off cell phones if they are distractions and be sure to keep dialogue and questions relevant to the topic at hand. All irrelevant questions should be held until after a more appropriate opportunity arises, as they can eat up several minutes’ worth of important meeting time otherwise.

Respect the Time

Assigning the role of timekeeper to a trusted colleague is the best way to stay on top of your agenda. Discuss how you will be delivering time checks and pay attention throughout the meeting for cues from your timekeeper that you must slow down or speed up to cover your material effectively.