Let's be honest: meetings su-- ahem, aren't fun.

We've all been there: trapped around a conference table, air conditioning set to "arctic blast," listening to a manager's endless monologue about customer acquisition strategies or abstract quarterly goals. At best, you might get a free pastry. At worst, it's an utter waste of your time.

Here's the good news: it doesn't have to be this way. Meetings can actually be a useful way for colleagues to work together, overcome challenges, and generate exciting new ideas. Start following these simple tips to keep your meetings productive.

7 Tips for Better Meetings

1. Keep it short! 30 minutes max. You won't hold anyone's attention much longer than that.

2. Set clear expectations ahead of time. Include what will be covered and what preparation, if any, attendees need to complete beforehand.

3. Send meeting materials in advance. Agendas, slides, spreadsheets: let people review everything before the meeting starts. The meeting itself is for actually getting things done.

4. Stay punctual. Be respectful of your teammates' time by starting — and ending — when you say you will.

5. Encourage discussion. If someone's dominating the conversation, step in to redirect or ask for another person's opinion.

6. Stay focused. If a discussion veers off on a tangent, or turns into a dialogue between two people, table the conversation for a more appropriate time.

7. Record key ideas and action items. If your meeting produces genius ideas, what's the point if you don't capture them and ensure follow-through?

Curious about exactly how much time and money is sunk into ineffective meetings every single day? (Hint: it's a lot.) Check out the infographic below for more details and stats, including the root causes of bad meetings and tips for keeping virtual attendees engaged.

The ugly truth about meetings and how to fix it.

 Source: Fuze

Want a reputation for hosting awesome meetings people actually look forward to? Take a look at these 4 Simple Steps for the Perfect Meeting.