By Gavin Meikle, Head Of Learning And Founder Of Inter-Activ

Meetings are commonplace in most organisations but do they actually work? We've all sat in at least one meeting, wondering what on earth we were doing there, and thinking about how much more we could have accomplished if we had been at our desks, haven’t we?

Don't get me wrong, I am not anti-meetings, well not all of them. I think that there is certainly a place for meetings in most workplaces, but we must regularly review them to decide which ones are required and which ones aren't. Here are some top tips to improve the effectiveness of your meetings.

Beware of regular meetings!
It's easy to schedule a regular meeting every Monday morning, to review the workload for the week ahead. These meetings generally start out as productive and efficient, but things usually start to go wrong...

All too often the original purpose of the meeting gets forgotten about and instead it degenerates into a catch all for general news, chit chat, gossip etc. Regular meetings tend to get held regularly, whether there is a need for them or not. Instead, aim to schedule meetings only when there is a real need.

Is a meeting the best way to communicate?
Nowadays we are flooded with communication tools. Text messaging (SMS), emails, intranet, video, conference calls etc.

Before you call a meeting, decide what it is you need to communicate and ask yourself if a meeting is the best method to use. Meetings are an expensive and inefficient way to convey a lot of factual information - try a written report followed up by a live Q & A session, once people have had the time to digest the information.

Set a clear objective for the meeting and keep it front and centre.

Better still write it on a Flipchart or poster and keep it in front of everybody for the duration of the meeting. Encourage everyone to help manage the meeting by making it OK for them to challenge anyone who appears to be digressing from the purpose of the meeting.

Pre-distribute relevant information before the meeting.
Distributing relevant support documents at the meeting is a waste of time. There is no time to read them and consider their content. Make it a rule that only topics for which any required reading has been pre-distributed, are eligible for inclusion on the agenda, and enforce this rule rigorously.

And remember that it's usually the case that the more pre-reading that is distributed, the less people will actually read. That's why I recommend focused, single subject meetings.

And finally,
Only invite those who need to be at the meeting. By all means circulate the minutes to others who would genuinely benefit from the information, but don't waste their time by inviting them to "sit in" on a meeting where they have no input or involvement.