Have you ever sat through a long meeting and thought to yourself, “Couldn’t all of this be covered in an email?” Sometimes you need to communicate a few specific ideas in person to a group of people, and holding a meeting really is the best way to do that. In fact, regular group meetings for your teams or departments can keep everyone on track and on the same page. That doesn’t mean that every meeting has to last an hour (or even half an hour), and you don’t have to call a meeting for every single bit of information you need to get to your people. So how can you make every meeting count so that no one feels like they’re wasting time? Follow these tips.

HAVE A DEFINED PURPOSE FOR EVERY MEETING

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First of all, don’t just call a meeting to “catch up” on what everyone’s doing. Getting together with your managers to check on statuses and to make sure everyone is up to date isn’t a bad idea, but this is better done one-on-one or with an email. If you’re going to get everyone together, have a defined and clear purpose and agenda.

ONLY INCLUDE PEOPLE WHO NEED TO BE THERE

If all of your team leaders are working on different parts of the same project, then they may need to know each other’s statuses to prioritize their teams’ next tasks. In this case, a meeting might work better than meeting one on one. But only invite the people who absolutely need to be there. You’ll avoid a lot of distractions and you won’t have bored employees sitting there when they could be doing something more productive.

GET BEYOND DISCUSSION

Don’t just “discuss” the issues and challenges that you hope to address in a meeting. Get beyond discussion and decide what to do and how to do it. You shouldn’t hold a meeting to talk about a problem—you should hold a meeting to solve that problem. If you don’t have a clear plan of action at the end of the meeting, including follow-ups and follow-throughs, then you’ve just wasted time.

PARK OFF-TOPIC DISCUSSIONS

When you get a group of creative, like-minded people together, it’s easy to get off topic, and some of those off-topic ideas and discussions can get very interesting. However, you only have a limited amount of time, so when things start to get off track, make a note of any important topics or potentially interesting ideas and firmly park those ideas for later. Until the meeting has served its purpose, don’t talk about anything else.

KNOW WHEN YOUR MEETING SHOULD BE AN EMAIL

Finally, don’t ever make anyone sit through a long-winded meeting when a group email would suffice. Evaluate what you have to say and discuss with the group. If it can work just as well in a group email, then save everyone some time and frustration by handling it in the proper form.

Meetings are tricky things, and they’re not always fun. However, with a few simple tips and a little bit of preparation, you can make sure that every meeting you hold really counts and does what it’s supposed to do instead of dragging on, wasting time, and creating disgruntled employees. Use your meetings wisely with these tips.

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