Effective meetings don’t necessarily need to be long, do they? As a business leader, you probably spend a large part of your workday in meetings, with many companies holding management meetings at least weekly and larger staff meetings once a month or quarter. But is all this time spent at the roundtable leading to an ideal production output? It might be time to do some deep thinking on the reasoning behind and structure of regular get-togethers.

Wasteful meetings are a common business epidemic. Consultancy firms have uncovered data that backs up this thinking: Professionals put in 31 hours per month on meetings that prove unproductive, and half of the meeting time that makes up the estimated 11 million meetings that occur in the U.S. every day is deemed not useful. Furthermore, it was found that 73 percent of professionals do unrelated work during meetings! You obviously don’t want your company to contribute to this trend, so what can you do?

Short and Sweet

Drawn out, hour-long meetings are not beneficial to most companies because they keep people from doing needed everyday tasks. Shorter meetings, on the other hand, are more focused, to the point and, as a result, more effective. If your meetings are closer to the unproductive end of the spectrum, consider the following tips for reducing the amount of time that employees and management spend in conference rooms:

  • Make use of different communication formats. If there’s anything you can cover in email, use that instead. Yes, some information is best delivered in person, but think about the most efficient and effective way to communicate when you start putting together that meeting invitation. You can always make it clear that you’re available to answer any further questions in person.
  • Schedule shorter meetings. Schedule no more than 25 minutes, with an additional five minutes for unscheduled discussion. If your meeting room is only booked for that shorter time period, you’ll have a hard stop and therefore the incentive to cover everything more quickly.
  • Avoid chairs. It may seem strange, but bringing a group together to discuss a topic while everyone is standing in a room can help get information relayed faster and just as effectively.
  • Provide an agenda or outline in advance. Make all relevant information known to participants in advance so that there’s no question about what the meeting will cover (and not cover).
  • No distractions. Forbid the use of smartphones, tablets and laptops to keep attendees focused and on task.
  • Cut down on chatter and redundancy. While small talk is sometimes appropriate for informal discussion, cut it short when it gets too in-depth. Also, make sure you’re not repeating yourself. Don’t go over the same plan again if every team member has already seen it.
  • Save debates for later. A back-and-forth or difference of opinion can be healthy, but don’t let it derail the task at hand. If something needs to be fleshed out more between two parties, suggest they either bring it up at a subsequent meeting or work on it in the meantime.

Creating effective meetings requires attention and focus, but doing so will enhance their effectiveness. Before you set up your next meeting, ask yourself how necessary it is. Is it the best format to discuss the topic at hand, and if so, how can you keep it short and to the point? Don’t be afraid to lay down the law and make changes — your company just might respond with a valuable increase in productivity.

Sandy Baker is a full-time freelance writer specializing in health, personal finance and Internet marketing. Her long-term history online has included publications with companies including Marriott Hotels, The New York Times and dozens of other small and medium-sized businesses. She is also published in print with award-winning books such as The Complete Guide to Estate Planning, Complete Guide to Early Retirement, The Complete Bankruptcy Guide for Consumers and Small Businesses and The Complete Guide to Organic Lawn Care.