We have all been pulled into meetings where our only purpose seemed to be to warm a chair, and we’ve endured hour-long meetings still rambling at the two-hour mark. Rhetorically speaking, the innate objective as to why organizations typically hold meetings is to discuss ideas, debate issues, overcome obstacles and drive outcomes ultimately getting things done. Why is it, then, that most meetings only serve as time sink or even chewing the fat? The truth is that most meetings end up being about as valuable as a Snapchat post – people talk, ideas quickly disappear without outcomes or follow up. Well, perhaps not so surprisingly, a major reason is because most people multitask during meetings, making them far less efficient than they could be.
Statistics reveal that approximately 15% of an organization’s collective time is spent on meetings, a percentage that is now increasing YoY. One can imagine the operating cost involved and its adverse impact on bottom line. According to Business Insider, more than USD 37 Billion per year is spent on unproductive meetings!
Let’s not deep dive into the finance aspect and understand what’s causing meetings turn futile:
- Multitasking – checking emails, doing unrelated work.
- Lack of proper planning/ structure – no clear agenda set.
- Showboating – one person dominating the discussion, interrupts, and belittles everyone else’s ideas.
- Non-participation – Attendees failing to follow along, stay engaged and feel like they can contribute.
How can we have better meeting: Ask three questions before scheduling next meeting –
- Is a meeting NECESSARY? – Explore possible options requiring lesser time from co–workers.
- Who really NEEDS TO BE THERE – Be clear about required vs optional participants.
- What can be done to ensure the meeting is focused and interactive? – Come up with a clear AGENDA. Send materials in advance and capture action items.
- Schedule shorter meetings – 30 minutes max.
- Set clear expectations – include in preparation materials.
- Send materials in advance – use time for discussion.
- Start and end on time – respect people’s time.
- Avoid monologues – engage participants.
- Stay focused – prevent distractions and control discussions that run off the rails.
- Capture key points and action items – distribute after the meeting.
Meetings aren’t necessarily toxic, lack of proper planning and execution is. A well-run meeting is a beautiful exercise in collaborative problem solving; a poorly-run is a colossal waste of time.