How many meetings do you attend in a typical week or month? Ten, twenty, more? And how many of those are necessary or important? Do they even achieve what they're supposed to?
Do your meetings get hijacked by the office bore who goes off at a tangent? Perhaps they drag on, wasting everyone's time? Or, worse still, include people who don't need to be there?
If so, then it's time you made meetings more productive.
Key facts about unproductive meetings
- UK workers waste, on average, 13 days a year in meetings
- Executives spend around a third of their working week (18 hours) in meetings
- In 2019, the cost of poorly-organised meetings was $399bn in the US and $58bn in the UK
- The average meeting takes around one hour
- Over a quarter of people felt that poorly-organised meetings impacted client and supplier relationships
- The key elements of a productive meeting are setting clear objectives (72%) and having a clear agenda (67%)
- Two-thirds said they felt morning meetings were generally better than afternoons
- In another survey, 1 in 20 people admitted calling in sick to get out of meetings
- An estimated 25-50% of meeting time is wasted
- 39% of people admitted dozing off in meetings and 70% have brought other work to meetings
Best practices for making your meetings more productive
- Have a point - Decide first what the purpose of the meeting is and whether it's really necessary. If it's to share information, would a report be better? If it's to make a decision, can't you just talk directly to the decision-maker instead? If it's to gauge opinion, what about a poll? Never hold meetings to just share information.
- Set an agenda - Make sure you know what exactly will be covered in each meeting, how long it should take, and stick to those timings. If there's no agenda, reschedule or cancel the meeting.
- Have a limited guest list - The more people who attend, the bigger the drop in productivity. So, be selective and only invite those who have a specific role. Make sure that key decision-makers can attend. If they can't, you'll need to postpone.
- Be flexible - Allow colleagues to decline your invitation if they can demonstrate that it's not essential to their job. Having people in the room simply to make up the numbers is not a good idea.
- Set ground rules - Consider banning technology, mobile phones, and refreshments so everyone remains focused and the meeting isn't stretched out unduly.
- Speak the same language - If a diverse audience attends or the meeting is made up of participants from different companies or different parts of the business, avoid buzzwords and make sure jargon is fully explained. Clarity is key.
- Experiment and try new ideas - Think about holding stand-up meetings, as research shows they can cut meeting time by a third.
- Allocate any housekeeping tasks (e.g. note-taking and refreshments) by rotation - This eliminates the possibility of discrimination or unconscious bias.
- Overcome inertia by concluding with action points - All too often, meetings fail to accomplish their objectives because of inertia. Once the meeting has ended, good intentions fade away - due to other demands. To avoid this, end each meeting with an action plan, detailing follow-up tasks, responsibilities and timescales.
Meetings can be a powerful way of sharing knowledge, formulating strategy, building rapport and fostering collaboration. With these top tips, you can ensure you get the most out of all your meetings so there's a win:win for everyone.
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