5 Reasons Productive Meetings Are a Myth

David Spence
September 10th, 2013

Are Your Meetings Just a Waste of Time?

The Right People Aren’t Attending

While it may be good for an intern or temp to learn more about the company through meetings, having them attend every single one can cut into their work time. If the matters discussed have little relevance to them, then having them attend may be pointless. On a related note, Forbes contributor Paul Rogers discourages letting proxies attend in place of higher-level employees. “[If] senior people habitually send delegates when the leaders themselves should be there, ask the delegates to leave. It might hurt, but it will get attention— and it may get the senior people there next time,” advises Rogers.

Someone’s Taking Over the Meeting

There may be one person who always takes control of meetings and dominates the conversation. This makes it difficult for others to speak up and provide their own input. One way to prevent this problem is to assign a facilitator to keep track of how long each person speaks. After all, what’s the point of having other people there if they can’t share their ideas?

Technology is Distracting

Some 73 percent of professionals “admit to doing unrelated work in meetings,” according to Wolf Management Consultants. And as good as younger workers may claim to be at multi-tasking, the fact remains that it’s hard to focus attention on any one thing when they’re doing multiple tasks. Having employees who check their Facebook news feeds while you’re trying to strategize a business plan won’t get the team very far. To stop this from happening, consider instituting a technology ban. You can forbid attendees from bringing their smartphones or laptops into the meeting room. Or, collect their phones at the beginning of the meeting. The result will be a more productive meeting, and more ears and eyes will be focused on you.

People Don’t Know Why They’re Meeting

Meetings are held for different reasons. It could be something that workers don’t have to prepare for, like a quarterly review. But it could be something that requires planning or thinking beforehand, like brainstorming or an all-hands work session. If workers know on the front end why the meeting’s being held, they can come better prepared, which will make the meeting more successful overall.

Time Could Be Spent On Other Things

Consulting firm Get a Klue says that on average, 31 hours of a professional’s work time are dedicated to meetings that aren’t productive. While hour-long meetings can be the norm, the savviest executives try to keep gatherings no longer than half an hour. Why? Carving out an hour can lead to the attendees to fill the time with topics that aren’t that crucial to discussion. Furthermore, if 15 people are attending when only 8 are really needed, that’s seven hours of work that are swirling down the drain.

Given all the minutes spent on unnecessary matters, the too-high numbers of people involved, and the lack of communication on the front end, it’s no wonder that meetings are so hated across all sectors. If you think a little more carefully about what needs to happen and who really needs to be there, your meetings can become more effective, even—dare we say it—productive. What a novel idea!

photo credit: Thickey via photopin cc