By Marcus Leach

Meetings have a bad reputation in a lot of offices for being ineffective and wasting time. But should you cancel meetings altogether or just review the way you handle them?

Donna Merrick, HR consultant at Consult Capital looks at how to get the best from meetings in 2012.

“There is no doubt that people can be guilty of using meetings as a way in which to fill their days rather than approaching them as forums for necessary discussions," Donna said.

"As a result, meetings are often blamed for being time wasters and obstacles to productivity.”

Here Donna shares four tips for making sure you get the most from your meetings:

1 — Don’t meet for the sake of meetings

Before one is set, it is important to consider whether there is a simpler, quicker way to resolve the issue to be discussed. The organiser needs to be really strategic and think of what they want to achieve, otherwise there is a danger that a potentially productive forum can become a chat that digresses away from the agenda.

2 — Failing to prepare is preparing to fail

Plan, prepare and set the structure. Think about why you want the meeting in the first place and what you want to achieve, and then set a clear agenda. Preparing for a meeting is not a waste of time providing those involved know exactly what the objectives of the meeting are and what they want in return for their preparation. If meetings are managed and used effectively, they can be a timesaver when it comes to discussing issues and getting every relevant point of view. In some situations there is no substitute for conversation.

3- Time is money

Put a strict time frame on meetings and stick to it to ensure that the meeting remains focused and disruption is kept to a minimum. In this current climate everyone is pushing themselves to achieve more to stay afloat and time is at a premium; nobody can afford to waste it in unproductive meetings. It is essential that everyone knows why they are there, what they need to bring to the meeting and what they will be taking away.

4 — Location, location, location

Teleconferencing has been massively beneficial in terms of facilitating efficient meetings. Using teleconferences can save time and money when involving people from separate sites, which in turn helps maintain the productivity of attendees. Teleconferencing is also beneficial when it comes to including people that may previously be excluded by distance — partners and clients overseas for example. That said, some meetings are best held face-to-face regardless of technology, so it’s important to assess the context and decide what will be most effective and not dismiss meeting in person immediately, if it is logistically possible.

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