Can be meetings be made “fun”? Why, yes. Here’s how.

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Not long ago a friend remarked to me, “Meetings are so much fun. I love them!”

Say what? Someone enjoys meetings? Here I’d thought they were one of those universally despised, if necessary, corporate activities.

Still, my optimistic friend notwithstanding, it’s probably safe to say that most of us are not crazy about meetings. Too often they go on too long and, when they do end, everyone is left wondering, “What just happened here?”

Which is why it’s worthwhile to consider ways to make meetings faster, better and more productive.

Obviously, we should observe the basics: start on time, end on time, ban devices, invite only people who absolutely need to be there, and stick to the stated agenda. Whether you’re the meeting organizer or an attendee, you can help uphold these fundamentals.

But there’s one key meeting “rule” that’s more important than all the others and that really needs to be set by the organizer.

Your meeting must have a powerfully specific objective.

Yes, it sounds obvious, but it’s amazing how many meetings have no clearly defined purpose — especially those that have become institutional. “Monday morning staff meet-ups” fall under this category. So do “regular status updates.”

But even meetings called for a specific purpose often suffer from inadequate preparation, failure to articulate a clear set of desired outcomes and few (or zero) criteria for measuring success.

Usually the problem is that too much of the focus is placed on the activity the group will be engaged in at the meeting — brainstorming, problem-solving, planning, etc. — and not enough attention is paid to the outcome all that activity is intended to produce.

Sometimes, in fact, what you need is two meetings — one for the brainstorming, say, and one for devising a plan that implements the ideas your brainstorming generated. Truly understanding the purpose of your meeting helps you in other ways, too, as in whether to conduct them face to face or virtually.

Basically, the sharper and more specific a meeting’s objective is, the more productive it is and the easier it is to tell when you’ve succeeded. No one complains when a meeting accomplishes exactly what it sets out to do. Who knows, your meetings might even become known for being “fun.”