(Time) Killer Meetings: The Hard Reality and Tips for Improving

  • Brace
  • October 15, 2018
  • 7 min


A wise coffee cup once said “life is too short for long meetings,” and honestly, who hasn’t sat in a meeting and felt out of place, bored out of their minds, or simply annoyed by the endless, unproductive discussions?

One of the biggest time-suckers in the everyday workplace is the directionless and often unnecessary meeting. It costs employees patience, and the company time and money. But even if meetings can lead to wasted time and resources, they aren’t going away any time soon, as they are still an integral part of the office. Important decisions that affect everyone often need to involve the whole team or stakeholders to find an appropriate and productive solution. There is thankfully a glimmer of hope. Read on to learn about the reality of meetings and find tips to make your meetings shorter and more productive, while still generating actionable results.

The Black Hole of the Workplace: Meetings

Too often meetings consume more time then their results warrant, while causing the workplace to revolve around them. According to a study by the Harvard Business Review, up to 54% of companies commit the 3 deadly sins of having meetings that occur too often, are badly planned, and poorly executed, leading to productivity losses, instead of gains. The stats don’t look much better either, with 65% of senior managers reporting that meetings keep them from completing their tasks and 62% saying that they miss the mark on bringing teams closer together.

The list goes on:

This means a full 2-3 days of a manager’s work week is dedicated to preparing and leading meetings, with this coming at a cost of $25 million per day across the US. And all these efforts and resources only for an hour where 92% of employees multitask and pay limited attention.

What Feeds Meeting Frustration?

Unproductivity and inefficiency are at the core of the miserable reputation of meetings. Many CEO’s recognize that what currently takes up to an hour could be done in 15 or 30 minutes. But there are various other factors driving this tepid reception, all presented in a nice graphic by the content marketing service Visual.ly in cooperation with Fuze:

(Source: Visual.ly and Fuze)

Navigating the Meeting Labyrinth

All the reasons listed above can make meetings a frustrating moment for everyone, and there are numerous financial and workplace reasons to improve. This is obviously easier said than done with improvement steps filling web pages across the internet. We gathered the best considerations below to help you make your meeting efficient and effective.

1. Is the meeting really necessary?

Another old coffee mug adage, “I survived another meeting that should’ve been an email,” has its roots in reality. Meetings should only take place when there is something that needs to be discussed and can’t be handled in a more applicable, practical fashion.

2. Who needs to take part in this meeting?

It’s quite common that people sit in meetings who have no reason to be there. Only employees who benefit from a meeting’s information or who can significantly contribute to the decision and discussion should be present to limit meeting time and increase efficiency.

3. Is the group too big?

Meetings in small numbers are much more efficient, if only because every participant will want to contribute, which with larger numbers simply doesn’t work. Groups above 7 push the boundaries of being effective. Keep #2 in mind and choose your participants wisely.

4. Is the meeting well prepared?

A meeting really starts with the announcement or invitation. These should have a clear agenda so recipients can prepare for the conversation, and they should also set out a clear goal that the meeting hopes to accomplish.

5. Are there too many topics?

2 is enough. If there are too many issues to be covered then too many people will have to be invited. And these will undoubtedly give their two cents, even if it’s not their topic of expertise. You can avoid this by choosing wisely and limiting the issues to be addressed.

6. Did you leave the treats at home?

As delicious as donuts and gummy bears are, they make the meeting longer. Chewing and eating are distracting and can make participants drowsy. Everyone can make it through an hour without literal “food for thought,” especially if it means getting out of the meeting faster.

7. Should you sit or stand?

Short meetings in small circles without chairs can show results. These so-called “stand-ups” increase attention spans, remove the temptation to get too comfortable, and best of all, leave no room for secret smartphone shenanigans under the table.

8. Do phones stay in their pockets (or in the room at all)?

Push notifications, WhatsApp, and photos from the weekend can be concentration breakers. Do yourself a favor and keep smartphones out of the meeting. This can remove the source of distraction and speed up the proceedings.

In a Nutshell

Meetings are a necessity, as without team conversations, there can’t be any coordinated plans and solutions. With the right steps and discipline, however, even these can be efficient and effective. With clear planning and agenda, limited topics, smaller groups, and the removal of digital distractions, meetings can become quick, painless, and practical, saving money and frustration, while improving productivity.

Would you like to know more about the perfect meeting? Check out the video below:

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