Meetings are supposed to be productive, but let’s face it — how many times have you sat through a meeting that should have been an email? There’s no doubt that there can be great value in meeting face-to-face with your team but, more often than not, a lack of agenda and other factors result in inefficiency and, well, boredom. But it doesn’t have to be that way. We’ve collected some tips and tricks from top-level business leaders and entrepreneurs who’ve found the secret sauce for running meetings that are phenomenally productive (and a little bit fun). (Responses adapted for length and clarity.)

Jess Herbine, Director of SEO at Trinity Insight

Our team meetings went from eyes-glazed-over boring to energizing and engaging when we took the conference table out of the equation. Instead of staring at each other over our laptops at a large table, we hang out on comfy couches and armchairs, notebooks in hand, to brainstorm, share business updates, and talk through projects. The result is our meetings are much more enjoyable, much more productive, and full of laughs and good ideas! 

Amber Henning, COO at Social Eyes Marketing

Meetings have to be three things at our company — productive, fun and, perhaps most importantly, fast. We ask each staff member to take turns leading the meeting with a training session on something that is a strength or core competency for them. We’ve found this has increased engagement among our staff, both during and after our meetings. An even better by-product has been increased confidence in each staff member!

Michael Trefel, Executive Coach at The Trefel Group

Preparation and quickness. Meetings rarely need to go on for hours. The biggest drain is for everyone to sit in a meeting and one person reads the slides of a deck. Meetings should be run like a high powered Mastermind group or educational TED talk. Have a clear agenda with key points to deliver, have an energetic person presenting and leave with a clear action plan. 

Cassandra Shuck, Founder of Tola Marketing + Creative

Part of my “secret sauce” for running productive meetings is encouraging wildly innovative ideas. Creativity is stifled if you put so many constraints on it, so my team brainstorms and collaborates and discusses every idea that comes to mind. Some of the best ideas have come from thinking outside the box! Sometimes they come from literally stepping outside the box, which might look like a change of atmosphere or incorporating activities.

Paige Arnof-Fenn, CEO of Mavens & Moguls 

One trick I learned in my corporate life is that every meeting needs a PAL — a Purpose, Agenda and time Limit. One addition I made is to make sure everyone in the meeting needs to be there so that decisions can be made faster without slowing down the process. I wasted a lot of time in meetings before starting my company so I really try to minimize them now, making sure they are necessary to move forward, make decisions, and tied to revenue-producing activities.

Evan Brandoff, CEO of LeagueSide

The most productive trick I’ve found for leading meetings is to delegate a specific amount of time to each item on the agenda. This allows for a meeting to maintain a steady pace, without the risk of someone “checking out” because what’s being discussed is not relevant to their department. I also like to mix in slides that shout-out notable work an employee has done or celebrate an upcoming birthday, both of which give the meetings a more personal, lighthearted approach.   

Running an effective meeting doesn’t have to be difficult, but you do have to put in the effort. Take the time to figure out what works for your team and your meetings may go from “blah” to productive, efficient and even a little bit fun. Got your own top hacks for having a great meeting? Let us know in the comments.