Humans are social creatures, and meetings are a great way of bringing us together to brainstorm, solve problems and sharpen ideas. Managing a meeting effectively, however, has become something of a lost art, especially in today’s increasingly virtual work environment. Too many—or poorly organized—meetings can be a drain on productivity.

So, how do we maximize their effectiveness? Obviously, that will differ depending on the roles we play, but some basics apply to both hosts and participants:

  1. Do participate and offer your own insights

  2. Don’t monopolize the meeting

  3. Listen first; talk second

  4. Respect others

  5. Be inclusive

  6. Disagree without being disagreeable

  7. Challenge ideas, not people

  8. Don’t interrupt

  9. Stay present

  10. Stay off your phone

If you’re a participant, review the agenda in advance, do your homework and show up to the meeting with questions and feedback.

Pro hosting

If you’re the host, one of the first things to do is consider whether a meeting is needed. Perhaps the agenda could be addressed with a phone call or email instead? Cancel regular meetings if they are no longer useful or relevant. Evaluate meeting goals periodically.

Once you’ve decided the meeting is necessary, start planning. Be cognizant of time zones and timing. For instance, don’t schedule over lunchtime if you can help it. If a company has a no-meeting policy on a certain day of the week, avoid scheduling one then.

Smaller meetings tend to be more effective, so only invite those people who are really needed. Send invites as early as possible, share the agenda and, if the meeting requires materials, send those out in advance, too. When appropriate, solicit feedback from participants on their meeting goals ahead of time.

We’ve all experienced the awkwardness of technical mishaps, so if you’re sharing your screen either in a virtual environment or in person, test your technology. Additionally, consider assigning a notetaker so you can focus on leading the meeting.

On the day, organization is everything. Be on time. Better still, be early! Start the meeting on time and end it on time. Come prepared, set expectations and stay on topic.

Having said that, be confident without overwhelming participants. Create an inviting meeting space. A good way of setting the tone is to start with an icebreaker or light question to the group. Stay upbeat and open minded, and be adaptable just in case things don’t go to plan. If you notice certain participants are quiet, ask for their feedback. As the meeting draws to a close, determine what follow-up action is needed and who will be taking responsibility for it.

Meetings are a great opportunity to reinforce a team’s collective identity and establish a leader’s personal presence. They also offer participants a chance to find their voices. When organized and executed effectively, they are an invaluable resource.