Meetings have a valuable role to play in business, but it's important to ensure they are productive. Too many man hours are wasted in meetings which drag on unnecessarily or should never have been organised in the first place.

If you're going to remove employees from their desk - and their workload - for any period of time, you have to have good reason. Your meetings need to offer a return on investment; otherwise how can you justify disrupting your employees' day?

This is how you can stage productive meetings and ensure your organisation reaps the benefits:

Question the purpose

Assess the business case for staging a meeting in the first place. What are you trying to achieve? There may be other ways of achieving the same goals. If you can't identify the purpose of the meeting in five words, then it is probably ill-conceived.

Start on time

If the meeting starts late, it will finish late. This means everyone is away from their desk for longer than necessary.

Keep things brief

If everyone is expecting a 15-minute meeting, they will make points concisely and stay on track. If the attendees think the session will last an hour or more, they're more likely to ramble and go off at tangents. Work tends to expand to fit the time allocated for it.

Make everybody stand

Staging meetings where everybody stands up can have the same effect. Because people are less comfortable, they are more likely to stay focused and work through the key items on the agenda efficiently.

Limit the participants

If you're planning a meeting, ensure you only invite people who need to attend. What is the point in having dozens of attendees if many of them are not directly affected by the content?

Use visual aids

Giving meeting participants something to look at, to illustrate information, can assist their understanding and help retain their focus. It could be a single chart or idea on a slide or piece of paper.

Control the meeting

It's important to ensure everyone has the opportunity to contribute, not just the loudest people in the room. Your quietest employees are sometime the ones with the greatest ideas.

Use suitable facilities

If you stage meetings in inappropriate locations, with poor lighting, acoustics, technology and facilities, this can be a distraction. You need everyone to be fully focused on the task in hand.