Every other week, On Small Business reaches out to a panel of young entrepreneurs for answers to some of the most pressing questions facing small business owners. The following responses are provided by members of the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC).

Q: How can you make office meetings more lively yet effective?

Themed conference rooms like this one at Vocus headquarters in Maryland provide a lively atmosphere for team meetings. (Jeffrey MacMillan/JEFFREY MACMILLAN FOR WASHINGTON)

Charlie Gilkey, principal of Productive Flourishing in Portland, Oregon:

It turns out that making a meeting more lively and enjoyable will also make it more effective; in other words, there’s not as much of a compromise or tension here as many think.

Making meetings more effective is the simpler task, so let’s start there. Here are four simple rules to help with that:

1) Always have a clear, broadly-communicated goal for the meeting,

2) Limit who attends to who needs to be there to accomplish the goal,

3) Require materials or research to be done before the meeting, and

4) Start and end the meeting on time.

If you do those four things, you’ll already be well ahead of the game on the lively and enjoyable dimension because you’ll have thwarted many of the things that make meetings miserable. To make it even more lively and enjoyable, pull the socialite of your group into the planning process and give her the responsibility for planning the environment, activities and/or theme. Every team I’ve ever worked with has that one person who knows everybody, and this person is usually under-involved when it comes to intentional culture-building -- this is a huge missed opportunity.

Brent Beshore, CEO and owner of AdVentures in Columbia, Missouri:

“In recent years, meetings have become the favored punching bag of business gurus. They’re proclaimed to be highly ineffective time-wasters, filled with nonsense. It doesn’t have to be that way. Meetings allow for an exchange of information through visual and voice cues, as well as an opportunity to build trust and transparency in ways that emails never could.

Meetings should always have a very clear purpose. Never “get together to chat.” Meetings need a set duration, forcing everyone in the meeting to know that time is scarce. Meetings should only include the necessary participants. It’s easy to get meeting creep in each of these areas, leading to meeting hell: too many people who don’t know the purpose and have no clear timeframe.

Try putting an egg timer on the middle of the table; its presence will remind everyone to get to the point. Try holding standing meetings. People tend not to pontificate while they’re standing. Lastly, try having everyone explain to the group why they’re in the meeting. If you can’t explain, you shouldn’t be there.”

Pablo Palatnik, CEO of ShadesDaddy.com in Aventura, Florida.

“You’ll be surprised how important the working environment is for everyone, from the top to bottom. Looking at the largest tech companies, the work place seems like a playground for grownups. I visited Zappos last week and hope to always trying to make my workplace that much better for our employees. It’s all about culture and what expectations you set in terms of the workplace and output to consumers.

Meetings or otherwise, work and fun can co-exist and help build a very successful company. It’s all about setting culture and letting employees be part of your company’s vision and movement -- that’s from how the workplace looks to helping gather process/procedures.”

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.

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