One of the advantages of being an entrepreneur is that you are free of the corporate or government bureaucracy. If you've been part of that world, you know how much time is wasted in one long meeting after another. Unfortunately, it is easy to start up the same process in your own company, or your organization. Meetings almost always take twice as long as necessary, and accomplish half as much as intended. Still, to some extent they are essential. You have to hear from people, put out what you want them to hear, and brainstorm.

1. A meeting's productivity is inversely proportional to the number of those attending.

2. Beyond four or five attendees, the value goes down exponentially.

3. The longer the meeting has been in existence, the more people will want to attend.

4. Any meeting held more often than once a month should be scrutinized carefully.

5. Remember that you are the decision maker. The meeting can gather opinion and facts, but don't yield to leadership by committee.

6. Clearly specify the beginning and ending time of the meeting.

7. Publish an agenda before the meeting.

8. Avoid meetings entirely by getting people's opinion informally in conversations, or formally on memos.

9. The first few minutes of a meeting are the most important. People are alert and paying attention.

10. Whatever your meeting time now, cut it in half. Use the extra time to get some real work done. Tell your subordinates to do the same in their own areas.

Seminars, Workshops & Conventions

Unlike internal "working" meetings, the opportunity to gather the troops outside of the normal work environment to attend a convention or seminar should be welcomed. You should do everything possible to avoid this being seen as just another thing they "have" to do. Have your gathering in a nice restaurant meeting room, or even outdoors around a campfire! Get a truly motivational speaker, or a good comedian, or some kind of entertainer to get the people involved.

If your main purpose is to get them to learn a new skill, do it right. Rather than simply listening to an instructor drone on at a chalkboard, go multi-media.

Brad Orton is a freelance writer and independent business manager based in San Jose.

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