Make your meetings more productive

How many meetings have you sat in where time-wasting is high and positive attitudes are low? Annie May Noonan offers some global statistics you can use to improve the quality of your meetings

CREDIT: This is an edited version of an article which appeared on the Real Business website.

Many of us, despite our earnest intentions to be a diligent and committed employee or boss, have, at one time or another, faded out during meetings. They can be long on time-wasting and short on things like goal-setting. According to statistics compiled by online scheduling platform Doodle, the time-wasting that goes on during meetings is worse than we think, with a whopping two-thirds of all meetings considered a waste of time.

The company estimates that ‘pointless meetings’ will cost companies $541bn this year. So, unproductive meetings aren’t only a waste of time and energy for employees, they also take a toll on a company’s purse strings.

Doodle interviewed over 6,500 professionals across the UK, Germany, the USA and Switzerland – and examined 19 million meetings – to find out what employees were really thinking. Let’s take a closer look at what they found:

  • The average professional spends three hours a week in meetings.
  • 24 billion hours will be lost to pointless meetings this year.
  • 37% say they are the biggest cost to their organisation.
  • 76% prefer face-to-face meetings to calls or video chats.
  • 70% would prefer to hold meetings between 8am and 12pm.

The research dug deeper into what employees thought the impact of these time-wasting meetings on their companies might be. In response, 26% of employees interviewed said that poorly organised meetings impacted their client relationships. Another 43% said that unstructured and ineffective meetings created confusion in the workplace, whilst 44% said they impacted their ability to complete other daily work objectives.

A good vs a bad meeting
However, if employees have to have meetings – and let’s face it, this age-old practice isn’t going to be eradicated anytime soon – what method would they most prefer? More than three-quarters (76%) of respondents said face-face meetings are their favoured format, whilst only seven per cent said they would prefer conference calls and an even smaller five per cent said they liked video calls. A dismal four per cent said they preferred instant messaging.

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What do these statistics prove? Namely, that employees like the human connection and communicational clarity involved in face-face meetings – some 95% of respondents agreed with this.

The respondents were also vocal on what makes a good, vs a bad, meeting at work.

A good meeting includes:

  • Setting clear objectives – 72%
  • Setting a clear agenda – 67%
  • Not having a crowded room – 35%

A bad meeting includes:

  • People calling or texting during meetings – 55%
  • Participants interrupting each other – 50%
  • People not listening to others – 49%
  • People arriving late or leaving early – 49%
  • People going ‘off-topic’ – 46%

Staff still prefer the traditional format of face-to-face connections, but more work has to be done to prepare for these meetings. Managers should ensure that they are structured, time-conscious and that they end with a solid agenda being reached for the next step. However, employees have to do more work too, including preparing for what contributions they feel are important to make.

Holding a meeting is, perhaps, the most formal element of working in an office, so staff and managers alike should ensure it remains that way, including leaving mobile ‘phones – and idle chatter – at the door.

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