HOW many times have you telephoned someone only to be told: "They're in a meeting."

At least 60 per cent of a manager's time is spent in meetings. Research in one large organisation discovered that the figure could be as high as 90 per cent.

Another survey found that many managers consider meetings they attend to be a waste of time. In fact, some managers say that "meetings take 'minutes' and last for hours".

If you are a manager or team leader, then you will have to hold meetings. Here are four steps to make them exceptionally motivational:

1. Is it needed?

Be absolutely sure that the meeting is needed and that it has a clear objective. By the end of the meeting, you have to ensure that you have achieved that objective. The shorter the meeting, the better.

2. Start on time

Do not wait for anyone and do not go over what has been discussed for latecomers. Of course, you really should not have latecomers and if you do, speak to them individually after the meeting and sort it out.

3. Have an agenda

Your agenda should show the start and finish times and the breaks in between. Do not schedule meetings to start on the hour. Aim for 2.20pm rather than 2pm. And if it is a half-day meeting, start in the afternoon rather than the morning. People will be motivated to finish on time if they think they will be late leaving work.

4. Stay on course

Do not allow people to ramble or talk about things not on the agenda. If you want to have chit-chat time, put it on the agenda! Keep things moving and try to end before the scheduled finish time.

5. Make meetings fun

Supply snacks, drinks, fruit and chocolate. Start the meeting with a game or quiz that injects some fun and energy into the proceedings. Let one of your team members chair the meeting occasionally (as long as they control the agenda). Allow people to have a laugh, and create energy and enthusiasm.

Keep these guidelines in mind when you organise your next meeting and the participants will have little to complain about. Motivational managers run structured meetings with clear objective, and where people have fun, contribute and get things done.