Meetings are a necessary part of every business. Because a well-planned meeting is a forum for leveraging human capital, it's an essential business tool that can improve work force productivity. No universal way to run a meeting exists. However, you can ask certain questions at most meetings to help you stay on track and accomplish your meeting goals.

What Are the Goals of This Meeting?

Start every meeting by first identifying the goals of the meeting, which also serves to help "break the ice." Ask questions such as "What do we want to accomplish today?" or "What are the goals of this meeting?" Setting a clear objective can help you and the participants stay on track. If the meeting veers off course, then you can politely remind participants of the meeting's objectives.

What Progress Have We Made Since the Last Meeting?

Ask meeting participants, "What progress have we made since the last meeting?" This is an especially helpful question if you have recurring meetings. Be prepared to discuss the progress you made, and bring a meeting agenda that lists important topics that you covered at your previous meetings and what you have done to address any outstanding issues.

What Issues Are We Facing?

Meetings are a place to discuss problems you or your team members are having with a project, your company or an individual. So that translates to, "What issues are we facing?" Preparation is key, so plan for the meeting by coming up with a list of discussion points. When discussing problems, don't get angry and defensive; stay calm and explain known problems, uncover looming threats and solicit ways of addressing these issues.

What Are the Things We Want to Accomplish Before Our Next Meeting?

End all meetings by asking, "What are the things we want to accomplish before our next meeting?" Develop a list of next steps at the end of each meeting. Have someone from your team send out detailed meeting notes that lists roles, responsibilities and dates for each of your next steps. Go around the room and ask participants to share what they think are the best steps to take to achieve your goals for the next meeting.

How Do We Accomplish Our Business Goals in the Future?

Ask meeting participants, "How do we accomplish our business goals in the future?" That's important because all meetings must align with company goals and objectives. The question helps meeting participants keep the big picture in mind because this is something that often gets lost in the day-to-day shuffle.