Christian Logue, MD of Sagal Group, wonders if meetings have had their day?
We’ve all been there. Stuck in a stifling room, staring at a seemingly endless PowerPoint presentation, losing the will to live. You’re supposed to be learning about streamlining your workflow, but all that’s really occupying your mind is whether to go for a healthy meal deal or a far-from-healthy burger when lunchtime (eventually) comes around.
Let’s face it, meetings in their current form just aren’t working. In a recent Harvard Business Review survey of 182 senior managers
‘65% said meetings keep them from completing their own work. 71% said meetings are unproductive and inefficient. 64% said meetings come at the expense of deep thinking.’
It’s easy to see why people are so fed up with traditional meetings, like so many flushed wet wipes, they clog up a workday and stop actual work from getting done. Meetings seem to go on forever, achieve very little and act as an excuse for team members to bore their colleagues to within inches of the afterlife.
Surely, we’ve come to the point when we bite the bullet and ban meetings completely?
Yet, as tempting as it would be to toss all meetings into Room 101, there will always be a need for people to get together to make (and act upon) decisions. So, rather than writing off all meetings as terrible, perhaps we should be a little more discerning and banish bad meetings? Otherwise, we’d be like someone who dismisses all music because they can’t stand ‘Baby Shark’.
The key to avoiding bad meetings is to bring thought and structure into the process of organising them. Here are a series of questions that, if asked, should help avoid unmanageable meetings.
What? Why? & Who?
What is the meeting about? Is it of interest to the rest of the team? Are you sure? Could the information be passed on in an email instead? Why is this meeting happening? Is it necessary? Does it benefit anyone other than the organiser? Who should attend? How will they gain from attending? Will these people feel like this meeting is a good use of their time?
Is the location you’ve chosen suitable for both the subject of the meeting and the number of people attending? For some ideas on spaces that are suitable for various types of meetings, see our blog ‘We Need to Talk About Meeting Rooms’.
Ask yourself, is this simply one of many meetings within an already overstuffed day?
Is the meeting at a time when people will be receptive to the meeting’s message? There are times of the day when most of us are better at specific types of tasks. For many, detailed work is best done in the morning, while more creative sharing activities work well in the afternoon. Personal tip – I don’t do spreadsheets straight after lunch!
Do you expect this meeting to take a long time? It probably doesn’t need to be an hour, yet most calendars book hour slots as standard. Break this. Try starting meetings at quarter to or quarter past the hour to shake things up. What factors can you put in place to mitigate the meeting overrunning? Could there be a time limit on the meeting? Perhaps it could take place with everyone standing up? Could any Q&A section take place via email, after the meeting ends?
What is the meeting’s goal?
How will attendees know that they have benefitted from taking part? Can a goal be established at the outset? Setting a goal will help the meeting stay on course if the conversation is side-lined into another, unrelated, topic.
At the end of the day, meetings needn’t be bad. It just takes a little thought to make sure they’re of benefit for everyone involved. That said, here’s some advice. If the organiser has more than 100 PowerPoint slides, ‘Run to the Hills’*.
Christian Logue, MD Sagal Group.
* My colleague bet me that I couldn’t sneak a reference to an Iron Maiden song in this article. They owe me a burger for lunch!
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