Most business professionals cite time wasted in meetings as one of their biggest complaints. Studies show the average business professional attends 62 meetings each month, and of that time, 31 hours equates as unproductive. This tallies up to a whopping $37 billion in annual.
When workers feel unengaged and that their time is being wasted, the repercussions are dramatic. Forty-seven percent of employees describe them as “boring, pointless, and unproductive.” Consider some of the things meeting goers admit:
- 91% daydream during meetings
- 96% skip meetings that they deem a waste of time
- 39% have slept during a meeting
- 45% feel overwhelmed by the number of meetings on their calendar
- 73% do other work during meetings
- 47% aren’t passive-aggressive; they complain to others in the office about unnecessary or unproductive meetings
Doing away with meetings altogether isn’t an option. There is an actual viable business purpose for most meetings—whether with employees, partners, or customers. So, as you look to 2017 and reflect on the wasted time and energy spent in meetings this past year, you may want to map out a new meeting strategy. The following are 10 things that you can to do take your meetings from good to great.
- Know Your Objective. One of the top reasons meetings are viewed as squandered time is the lack of a clear objective and the failure of meeting leaders to communicate it clearly and accurately and establish an agenda beforehand. When this is the case, meetings become meandering conversations without a purpose.
- Involve the Right People. Getting the right individuals in the meeting is crucial—and not involving those who don’t need to be included is just as important. Too many cooks in the kitchen spoil the meal. The same is true for meetings. The onus is not only on meeting organizations, but also on the participants. They have a professional responsibility to pose the question, “Do I need to be here?”
- Establish Individual Roles and Responsibilities. Good meeting leaders and facilitators establish ground rules and make sure the participants follow them. At two of the companies for which I’ve worked in the past decade, I’ve led efforts to standardize group decision-making on the DACI model (driver, approver, contributor, informed; also, known as RACI—responsible, approver, contributor, informed). Adherence to the model during meetings helps thwart dysfunction and prevent individuals from assuming roles that don’t belong to them (e.g., someone who simply needs to be informed who concludes they are an approver).
- Keep the Time. Meeting leaders and participants must be respectful of time allocation and ensure meetings start and end on time. If your organization has problems starting meetings on time, you can institute penalties for those who arrive late. You also can start and end meetings at odd times (e.g., 9:49 AM) and schedule them for less than 30 minutes (e.g., 22 minutes); this has proven to reduce the number of participants who show up late for meetings and that the time is optimized. Avoiding back-to-back meetings, which fail to account for the logistics that occur between meetings (walking between meeting rooms, rest-room breaks, stops for coffee, etc.), is an important reminder, too.
- Change Your Scenery. Meeting in the same location week after week can become a drudgery very quickly. Changing up the scenery can bring new life to standing meetings and energize the participants. Perhaps you simply switch meeting rooms. Maybe you leave the facility and meet offsite. For example, in graduate school, one of my professors would load all of us in his van and take us to Burger King where we set up shop for three hours. This broke the monotony of meeting in a classroom and helped the five or six of us in the class to forge deeper relationships. While Davinci Meeting Rooms don’t come with Whoopers and milkshakes (albeit they do have a catering option), they do provide a cost-effective change of scenery.
- Beware of the PowerPoint. Some companies have banned PowerPoint slides from meetings altogether. I don’t advocate going that far, as there is a time and place for PowerPoint slides (which can make meetings more productive and effective). However, meeting leaders need to ask if PowerPoint slides are necessary. “Do they aid in facilitating discussion? Do they provide information that could not be disseminated as effectively via other means?” If the answer is yes to one or both of the questions, then PowerPoint slides may be needed. If the answer is no, then they shouldn’t be used.
- Provide Entertainment or Education. Outside speakers (viz., someone not part of the meeting) can provide meeting goers with new information about the organization, ideas on how to tackle work projects differently, and insights from a perspective they had not considered previously. Entertainment is another way to make dull meetings more interesting, create more engagement between attendees, and foster a greater connection between attendees.
- Meet Face-to-Face. Conference calls where audio-only is used are the least effective meetings. The next least effective meeting is a video conference. The most productive meeting is one where participants attend in-person and face-to-face interactions take place. For example, in the case of audio-only conference calls, 47 percent of attendees admit going to the restroom during a call. Sixty-five percent do other work while the call is taking place. Not every company has offices that can accommodate every meeting they need to hold; this is where Davinci Meeting Rooms can help.
- Power Down the Laptops. Meeting attendees who have their laptops open during the meeting likely aren’t engaged. And even if they are engaged, studies show those who use laptops have a harder time remembering what was discussed during the meeting. They are also less likely to understand complex ideas or problems that were covered. As a result, unless someone is taking minutes, they need to power down.
- Spell Out Takeaways and Assign Responsibilities. Meetings often are only as good as the takeaways that are assigned. Meeting leaders and organizers should recap next steps and ownership of each item at the end of the meeting (including an email synopsis after the meeting). This will help ensure what was discussed actually results in execution.
With these 10 things in your list of meeting to-dos, you should be all set to take your meetings to new levels and to turn the tide of naysayers who claim meetings are wasted time.