Meetings about meetings
We have all been there; sat in a stuffy meeting room with a group of well-intentioned colleagues. The original agenda has drifted, as has your enthusiasm for proceedings. Then someone suggests a follow-up meeting…
More than 60% of those we asked in a recent survey* spend at least 8 hours per week in meetings. Everyone (that’s right everyone) thought that at least a quarter of meetings that they attended were a waste of time, with 45% agreeing that more than half left them none the wiser. That suggests a lot of dead time each week and when multiplied across a year doesn’t make pretty reading for CEOs, Directors or perhaps anyone who values their time!
Short of banning meetings, surely we owe it to each other to make them more constructive?
At TakePlace, we strongly believe that the physical location you choose for a meeting can have a significant influence on the mood and dynamic of participants. But aside from location, we thought it would be helpful to share some collected wisdom on how to make meetings more constructive.
- Shorten them. Easier said than done you might say, but have you ever questioned why most meetings are scheduled for an hour or more, regardless of topic or aimed output? Shortening the allotted time by even 10–15 minutes increases focus and forces outspoken attendees to cut to the quick. The 10–30–50–90 method takes this a step further and suggests choosing a meeting length based on it’s goal.
- Rotate the person leading or chairing the meeting. This might be scary for some and require support or training to begin with but it promotes shared responsibility and ensures different voices are heard. If most of us are going to spend the equivalent of a full working day per week in meetings it seems a useful lifeskill to be able to chair one successfully too.
- Hold each other accountable for preparing properly. This was the most popular suggestion amongst our survey respondents, with 80% agreeing more accountability for preparation work would improve meetings. It doesn’t have to all be stick; praising and rewarding those who do prepare can be just as effective as singling out those who don’t.
- Do something different or unconventional. Standing up meetings are often advocated but rarely adopted, however if it’s been good enough for the Privy Council for centuries perhaps the rest of us should give it a try? Selected ideas from our survey included having a taxi-style meter to calculate how much each meeting costs, providing cake or wine (!) for attendees and finally, our favourite, having a comical alert-word that can be used when someone is going off-topic.
- …or do the simple things right. Tellingly the greatest consensus from our survey was around having the right people in the room, keeping to an agenda and having a clear goal. Radical solutions might seem attractive but are often less popular and less effective than working on the basics.
So there you have it; shorter, inclusive meetings with clear goals and the right people in the room would be our way forward. Do let us know if you agree/disagree on twitter @takeplaceuk.
*TakePlace survey, July 2015