4 ways to make sure your next meeting doesn’t go wildly off track

In a world with so many meetings that it’s hard to keep up with your work, you’ll need to do everything in your power to make sure that the next one you facilitate doesn’t get derailed. With boredom levels raging and the need for some people to inevitably hear themselves talk, the potential for distraction from the gathering’s real purpose is high.

Here’s how to run a meeting that won’t follow this pattern.

Give participants an agenda

Participants should have a crystal clear picture of the meeting’s goal, and what it will take to achieve it.

Run your meetings like the ones at Amazon, where CEO Jeff Bezos reportedly has participants read through memos at the beginning of some meetings.

You should also follow Elon Musk’s lead by making sure that employees contribute instead of staying silent, and that there’a s clear reason for the gathering.

Be upfront with the materials, like Mark Zuckerberg

Hint: it involves getting the technical stuff out of the way first.

Sheryl Sandberg, COO at Facebook and founder of LeanIn.Org, spilled the beans on Quora in 2015 on how Mark Zuckerberg reportedly runs meetings at Facebook.

“Mark has done a really good job improving the efficiency of meetings at Facebook this year. He asks people to send materials in advance so we can use the time for discussion and we try to be clear about our goal when we sit down for a meeting — are we in the room to make a decision or to have a discussion?” Sandberg wrote.

Use this line when participants drone on, and on and on…

Someone has to put an end to it.

Bob Pozen, a senior lecturer at Harvard Business School, senior fellow at Brookings Institute, and author of Extreme Productivity, tells the Harvard Business Review about how to get people back on track if they talk for too long during a meeting.

“If two or three people bring up things that are contiguous but not really related, the meeting can degenerate,” he tells the publication.

Pozen also suggests that you try and find out what’s really going on instead of suggesting that they’re making the meeting get off track on purpose by saying something like, “you’ve diverted us several times. Is there something’s that bothering you?”

Don’t break without recapping the main points

You’ll need to tie up all the loose ends.

LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner writes on the platform about what to do before you go.

“Don’t end the meeting without summarizing key conclusions, action items, and points of accountability for delivering on next steps. This summary is usually the first thing to suffer if the meeting has run long and people start running off to their next scheduled event. However, it’s arguably the single most important thing you’ll do at the meeting (and is ostensibly the reason for the meeting to begin with). Have the discipline to ensure attendees sit tight and remain focused while next steps are being discussed and agreed to,” he writes.

Don’t let your meetings fall by the wayside.