Not all meetings are evil. Create the kind that foster teamwork, get things done and build your reputation!

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Meetings. We love to hate them. Yet despite their widespread unpopularity, meetings still happen every day in every sort of workplace in every corner of the land.

And for good reason. Meetings are useful tools for brainstorming solutions, reaching joint decisions and disseminating information. What’s more, meetings build camaraderie, especially among team members who rarely see each other in the normal course of the workday. Nothing beats a face-to-face meeting for creating trust and a sense of shared mission.

That is, nothing beats a well-run meeting. When people say they hate meetings they mean, of course, that they hate “bad” ones — those that lack a clear purpose, go on forever, veer off-topic and are not relevant to the people there. Some meetings even morph into a mechanism for putting off taking action or doing actual work.

So when it falls to you to schedule and organize a meeting, do it right:

  1. Identify and communicate your purpose. Ideally, your meeting should have a single topic; if not possible, keep it to no more than three.
  2. Invite as few people as possible. That is, only team members who absolutely need to be there. Sounds obvious, but people often attend meetings without knowing why. They are the ones playing on their phones.
  3. Schedule your meeting at the beginning or the end of the day.
  4. Send out an agenda in advance, providing necessary background information and letting people know if they need to bring anything.
  5. Start on time. Again, this sounds obvious, but waiting for latecomers, or being late yourself, wastes the time of those who did show up promptly and teaches everyone that it’s OK to be late for your next meeting.
  6. Allow a little time for chitchat at the beginning. One of the benefits of a meeting, after all, is team building.
  7. Keep to a schedule. You can enforce it by using a timer or even making it a stand-up meeting.
  8. End on time. Meetings that go long are usually meetings that are veering off topic.

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At the end of your meeting, all participants should walk away with a clear idea of the next steps — and a very good impression of you!

Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use. Email her at wg@karenburnsworkinggirl.com.