Meetings should be a place for decision-making, but all too often staff end up quibbling over smaller issues, losing track of the point and wasting everybody's time.

As a teleconferencing company, our whole business is based on meetings so we have picked up numerous tips on how to conduct a successful one, and therefore improve the efficiency of the business.

As a recession looms over the economy, increasing productivity will become even more important. We recently conducted a survey of office workers to question them about their meeting habits. It was a fairly light-hearted survey, but revealed that without strong chairmanship valuable time can be wasted.

Nearly half made the shocking admission to having witnessed someone fall asleep and almost a quarter of men confessed to regularly lying in meetings, with only one in 10 women having the same tendency.

How do I make my meetings more efficient?
If you take time to plan a meeting it will mean, when everyone is in the room, the time will be used for discussing the matters that need resolving and not flitting to and from the subject matter. As part of this planning you need to think who is being invited; the smaller the group the better. The basic formula here is for every extra person you invite the meeting doubles in length and efficiency is cut in half.

Niceties are essential at the start of a meeting but don't spend too much time on unnecessary small talk. It may well be that your co-worker's nephew just won a place at Oxford University or what happened on X-Factor on Saturday was a travesty, but share that at the end of the meeting, not the beginning.

Nearly half have witnessed someone fall asleep and almost a quarter of men confessed to regularly lying in meetings, with only one in 10 women having the same tendency

If you don't take charge of the meeting it will run in a million different directions all at once and nothing will be achieved. Make sure you take control as quickly as possible, keeping the meeting at a steady pace and always focused on a defined end point.

It is vital that all discussions are relevant to the whole group. If you go off topic and two people are discussing something only of interest to them, then stop them immediately.

Getting colleagues to submit answers before the meeting is a good way to increase efficiency. Ask everyone before the meeting what their solutions are to the questions due to be raised in the meeting. This way you don't have to go over presenting the questions again.

In addition, encourage participation in meetings and anticipate questions people may have and know how you will answer them. Make sure your actions are consistent with your words; in other words, if you say you are going to do something, do it. It means future meetings will be more efficient and you will be taken more seriously.

One of the easiest ways to save time and money is to have your meetings over the telephone or via the web. By cutting travel to meetings you save time and reduce expenses.

The proof this can help in times like these is the increase in business we are seeing since the credit crunch took hold in the UK.

Andrew Pearce is joint chief executive of Powwownow. For more information click here