Time is money, and meetings are a notorious time sink. Forbes points out that, “a one-hour meeting of six software engineers costs $1,000 at least. People who don’t have the authority to buy paperclips are allowed to call meetings every day that cost far more than that.”

The only way to run (and participate in) efficient and useful meetings is to invest in certain areas, and reduce in others. Last week, we launched our first Time Saving Tuesday, and we’ve combined our own time saving tips with some excellent Twitter suggestions for making meetings most productive.

Remove from your meetings.

  • Get rid of chairs, coffee, donuts, and cell phones. Everyone seems focused on not wasting time when they have to stand, and the number of distractions is limited.
  • Use collaboration tools (like Co-op, IM, or email threads). Quickly solve the questions that don’t need a meeting.
  • Keep meetings on target by using accurate time estimates. It makes people antsy when meetings run over their time limit, so check previous time reports to effectively gauge typical meeting length.
  • Downsize your invitee list. Curate your attendance list wisely.
  • Encourage open (for everyone) and closed (selected participants) portions of meetings, where people who do not have to be at entire meeting can be dismissed. You can share meeting notes with everyone afterwards to review.
  • Create “meeting-free” days, to allow employees to capitalize on focused, uninterrupted concentration.
  • Don’t accept every meeting invite. Says Seth Godin, “Don’t bother having a meeting if you’re not there to change or make a decision right now.”

Invest in your meetings.

  • Define specific goals for the meeting ahead of time, so that you can stay on topic.
  • Have a clear agenda, w/ time budgets for each item, and then enforce those time limits.
  • Offer a way for people to submit questions and ideas in advance of the meeting.
  • Circulate any reading materials before the meeting, and insist that all attendees read them beforehand.
  • Make use of a talk object (a hat, stick, staff, feather, or something else!), so that people can talk freely without having to talk over others.
  • At the end of the meeting, ask for feedback about its efficiency. Keep improving the process!
  • Hire a meeting fairy. This magical person can manage and enforce all of the above suggestions, and keep everyone prepared and informed both before and after meetings.

Many thanks to the Twitter community for your great contributions to this article. We’ll announce the winners of our Time Savings Tuesdays contest tomorrow, and feel free to share your own tips in the comments!