Every day, millions of workers gather in meetings. They are an integral part of today’s business culture, but too often the results of a meeting could have been achieved with a text or an email.
By looking at the collective hourly pay of all meeting attendees and multiplying that by the hours the meeting takes, the numbers of just a single unnecessary meeting add up to an astounding expenditure.
According to corporate coaching consultant company Get a Klu, 31 hours a month can be spent in unproductive meetings.
And research by Wolf Management Consultants shows that 73% of the attendees in these meetings brought unrelated work with them, while 39% of the participants actually admitted to dozing off. It is estimated that more than 50% of meeting time was wasted.
Counterproductive to management goals, researchers have learned that the more meetings employees attended, the greater their level of exhaustion and the higher they perceived their workload to be.
What are the Culprits?
There are two types of meetings that start out with the best of intentions and become really bad meetings. They are:
- Marathon meetings: Time is money. Have a prepared agenda and keep to it.
- Vague meetings: These have no apparent goals or are for the sole purpose of scheduling more meetings. These waste everyone’s time.
Executing a Good Meeting
Preparation is crucial to a useful meeting. Before reserving the room and inviting the attendees, the creator of a meeting should ask a few questions.
Why have the meeting? Who should attend? What is the desired outcome? Will it have the desired impact?
Without considering the potential downfalls of a meeting, achieving the desired result can be almost impossible.
Meeting leaders should clarify the purpose of the meeting, create an agenda and give advance notice of both the time and topics to be discussed for those expected to attend. The agenda is designed to create expectations, outline topics of discussion and state desired objectives.
Encouraging input before meeting and having the most current agenda clearly visible during it keeps the meeting focused and provides the most relevant information.
Additionally, the time to master the technology of PowerPoint, projectors and laptops is before the meeting, not during it.
Leaders will want to stay on time and on target, keeping discussion tangents to a minimum. Encouraging participation is good, but refocusing on priorities is important when the topic becomes personal or unconstructive. Attendees will appreciate a meeting that ends at its scheduled time or before.
Many managers have had a carefully planned meeting whirl out of control by letting it drag on just for the sake of the meeting. A wise meeting leader knows when to put a stop to runaway meetings. Set a timer and when it sounds, quickly summarize your meeting points and end the meeting on a positive note. If there are still questions to be asked or left unanswered, encourage emails and texts to clarify those remaining points.
Make everyone feel the meeting was worthwhile by highlighting whatever positives came out of it, even if it was only a single thing.
Sometimes meetings lose their original intent. Ending the current discussion as quickly, but sensitively, as possible, and asking your team for their input about any pressing things that need further discussion is a good way to rein in a meeting that has gone off course. Record the team’s suggestions for the next meeting’s agenda, schedule any pertinent individual, one-on-one meetings and move on.
Avoid Unnecessary Meetings
Meetings are a necessary evil, but many professionals fall into the trap of having too many. Here are some additional tips to avoid creating meetings that are not useful, informative and conducive to improving business:
- Make the meeting stand-up only, no chairs. When conducted properly, these become fast, efficient and offer just the facts.
- Make hard rules for creating a meeting. For example, no agenda, no meeting.
- Eliminate cell phones (turned off only), iPads or laptops. Go back to the basics with a pen and notepad. It will improve everyone’s concentration when there is no electronic crutch or distraction.
- Replace voice-only meetings with video conferencing. Today’s technology allows for face-to-face interaction in real time. Phone-only meetings give participants the opportunity to multi-task while appearing to be hanging on your every word. Inattention leads to mistakes and mistakes cost money.
The best possible solution for unnecessary meetings is to simply not have them. An email, a text or phone call to a knowing colleague or expert can often achieve the purpose of a meeting without involving a group of busy people trapped in a room for a specified period of time.
Some meetings will always be necessary, but with careful preparation, an outlined agenda and proper focus, they can be conducted with positive results and minimum disruption to schedules.