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When asked to attend a company meeting, do you immediately think tedious, time-consuming, and inconvenient?

The good news is meetings don't have to be this way.

Here are four traits of an attendee-friendly meetings.

1. A location that's convenient for everyone (or almost everyone)

MarketingProfs is a virtual organization with employees all over the country. We recently held an in-person staff meeting for multiple departments with staff members traveling from near and far to attend.

Choosing a location that was centrally located and easy to reach was a top priority. (We chose Dallas, by the way.)

That cut down on time spent traveling to and from our destination, and it allowed us to get where we needed to be and get right down to business (and get back home) in a timely manner.

Meeting in person may be hard to schedule, though. If so, you may want to consider using the followed instead:

  • Google+ Hangouts
  • Skype
  • Videoconferencing
  • Online meeting rooms

2. A realistic agenda

Using an agenda is not a new concept, but so many meetings get derailed by poor organization and lack of focus. Knowing what you want to accomplish during the limited time you have with your attendees is beneficial.

Think of your meeting like a marketing campaign. People have short attention spans, and you will lose them if you don't get to the "what's in it for me?" part quickly.

For our meeting, an agenda was created and shared with us prior to the meeting. Having that information going into the meeting helped us all plan accordingly.

Some company meetings have a dedicated person acting as timekeeper to keep the conversations moving along. Grouping agenda items based on topic or length of time you may spend discussing them can also assist in guiding the conversation.

For example, deciding the theme for your next event and the strategy for a big client pitch are bound to be lengthy discussions. Saving those conversations for another time or place can be useful. Otherwise, talking about subjects that only apply to the executive team when you have a room full of support staff is only going to cause those not involved to tune you out.

We found that having specific cross-functional teams meet with one another in breakout session format helped conserve our time as a group for big-picture conversations.

3. Useful manipulatives

We all know that keeping our hands occupied can be a great way to distract our minds from feeling overwhelmed. At our aforementioned company meeting, we found pipe cleaners to be a huge hit in this regard.

Our VP had recently attended a training workshop where her instructor placed pipe cleaners on the desks for attendees to "play" with. Instinctively, people would pick up the pipe cleaners and create things—finding productive (and often competitive) ways to occupy their hands while absorbing the content of the meeting. This also adds a little interactivity among those in attendance and makes for a good ice breaker and conversation starter.

Some other manipulatives that work well for meetings are…

  • Play-doh
  • Sketchpads and crayons, markers, etc.
  • Stress balls

Manipulatives help your attendees tap into their inner child and creative brain. They also create sharing opportunities; attendees like to share what they've drawn or created. They may even snap some pics and share on your appropriate social channels some of your employee creations.

4. Downtime (or fun time)

After long days of information overload, it's nice to incorporate some fun into your time together. Group activities are a welcome break. Our group went bowling one night of our two-day, action-packed meeting extravaganza.

Going out on the town gives people a chance to explore the place you have asked them to come for a meeting (snooze) and turns it into a sight-seeing tour they can knock off their bucket list.

Fun activities can include…

  • Playing pool
  • Line dancing
  • Going on boat tours
  • Miniature golf
  • Laser tag

Having fun with your colleagues is a great way to build camaraderie among those in attendance, while allowing people to take a mental break from the intensity of work. After all, studies suggest that happy employees are more productive ones.

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When planning a meeting, don't get caught up in bullet points and PowerPoints; stick to the point and keep your attendees top of mind.

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