How do I make it so my meetings aren't a waste of time?

I know I’ve written about this recently, but it's an important topic.  Meetings are the game field. Meetings decide well...decisions! And who wins!  And how the team functions!

Did you know:

·       Between 35-50% of meeting time is seen as wasted.

·       Most meetings start 8-12 minutes late.

·       75% say agendas are not prepared and distributed in advance.

·       Less than 30% of decisions in meetings are recorded.

·       Over 40% of people don’t know the purpose of the meeting they’re attending.

So let’s take a typical meeting of 8 people, paid approximately $50/hour (with benefits rolled in) who have a weekly one hour staff meeting.  The cost of that meeting is $400 to the organization x 50 weeks or $20,000 for the year, or an individual cost of $2,500. But by not starting on time, without an agenda, with little to no decisions being made or why “we’re even meeting,” the meeting can seem like a waste of time amounting to $12,500 a year… on meetings!

Because the agenda isn’t provided in advance nor actions and decisions recorded at the end, the members spend an additional hour per week with a social hour of a meeting.

Many people find it very difficult to speak up about their frustrations, despite the fact that they agree their meetings are a waste of time.  They accept the waste, rather than explore ways to improve the situation. Often, in training, when we propose doing things differently – like setting up an agenda – they will counter with the remark “but no one else does that around here.”  In other words, to step out and do something differently, albeit with the intention of making things better, is seen as a negative.

How is that?  

I’ve come to realize several things:  a) people need to articulate the personal and organizational loss of continuing with status quo; b) they need to work with others to introduce change, rather than going it alone; and c) they need to experience a very quick win to gain confidence.   

When we ask about the negative effects of unproductive meetings, many mention the following:

·       Loss of credibility as a leader

·       Loss of morale and engagement of the team/group

·       Confusion about who is doing what, when and for whom

·       Harm in working relationships

·       Delayed decision making

·       Poor image in the organizational network or marketplace

·       Boredom and frustration

Are those consequences enough to drive a change in approach?  We have found it beneficial to couple the consequences with the benefits of improving meetings.  Here are the benefits participant often list:

·       Can make you a stand-out as a leader who is admired (and noticed) by others

·       Increases results which increases selection for other high-visibility projects

·       Improves feelings of accomplishment; raises self-esteem of members

·       Improves attendance and engagement of members who understand why they are there and what’s to be accomplished

Running an effective meeting is not rocket-science, however it does take you exercising perhaps some new skills like preparedness (show up, on time, ready to go...with the agenda, notes, etc), delegation (who’s the note taker, the time keeper, etc.), time management (do you have allotted time on your agenda and do you stick to it), facilitation (how do you sweep others into your discussion at the meeting) and decision making (how do you move from divergent thinking to convergent thinking in one hour).