Productive Meetings

Let’s face it … we spend far too much time in meetings. Each day in the United States there are approximately 25 million meetings, which represents a collective 15 per cent of any organization’s time.

Meetings are meant to be productive, aren’t they? Meetings are supposed to be an efficient way to share information, a place for conversations and debate to take place, and to overcome obstacles so we can collectively move forward with the tasks at hand. Aren’t they?

Then why do executives consider more than 67 per cent of meetings to be failures? Why are we continuing to spend more and more time in meetings that are less than efficient? The average person in upper management spends about 50 per cent of their time in meetings. Why?

There are four simple factors that make meetings unproductive. Fortunately, all of these can be addressed to ensure that effective meetings are the norm instead of the exception in your organization.

  1. Multitasking.

Ninety-two per cent of people admit to multitasking during meetings. Sixty-nine per cent admit to checking their email and 49 per cent admit to doing other unrelated work during meetings.

If you are planning a meeting, invite only those people who need to be there. If all the information that is shared is relevant to everyone, there should be no reason anyone is multitasking, because they will need the information that is being shared. They won’t have time to multitask because they will be engaged with the topic at hand.

However, if you are inviting people to your meeting who don’t need all the information that is being shared, you are either inviting the wrong people or trying to do too much in one meeting.

Cut your meetings to 30 minutes, maximum. Invite only those people who need all of the information that is being shared. That might mean you invite fewer people to the table. Ask yourself, “who really needs to be here?” and keep the list short.

  1. Too many telephone-based meetings.

Yes, they save on travel time and costs, certainly. However, when people are not visually connecting with one another, they are missing a significant piece of communication that is necessary during meetings: body language.

We understand so much more, visually, than we do with just the spoken word. Body language is very important for comprehension, as well as for engagement.

Switch to video-based meetings. It still saves on travel time and costs, but it increases the likelihood of engagement. People are less likely to multitask on video calls (four per cent vs. 57 per cent compared with phone calls).

Video calls improve engagement and familiarity. They are more personal and create more of a team atmosphere than traditional teleconference calls do, and at no additional cost.

  1. Lack of focus and preparedness.

We need to have shorter meetings that start and end on time. They need to include participants who are prepared (send information in advance and set the expectation that everyone will be prepared). The facilitator needs to know how to facilitate the meeting (so many do not possess that skill at all), and the participants need to follow a set of ground rules.

Without structure, we create havoc. I’m willing to bet we’ve all spent too much time in meetings that were unstructured and chaotic.

  1. Lack of accountability.

Too many meetings end up being a social time for many participants. Lots of chatter, a few laughs, maybe a nice snack in the middle of the day, but then nothing gets done.

Someone needs to take minutes or action items. Attendees must be held accountable for what they have committed to doing, and there needs to be follow-up. Each meeting should start with the follow-up from the previous meeting. Social pressure to complete tasks tends to be very effective. Use it to your advantage.

It is estimated that $37 billion each year is spent on unproductive meetings. Ensure that you’re doing everything you can to avoid being part of that statistic.

Article By, Rhonda Scharf

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2 thoughts on “Productive Meetings”

  1. The article about the Oxford/serial comma is timely and clear. As an Editor, I come across it all the time and am asked to explain – mostly to skeptics. I am curious to hear your opinion about the current trend of one space after a period; whereas we used to be taught in typing class that it is two spaces after a comma. Joan

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