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5 Tips to Overcome Inefficient Meetings

When is the last time you met someone that enjoyed and looks forward to reoccurring meetings? Unproductive meetings are an efficient and draining activity. In this blog post, we explain the symptoms of an efficient meeting culture and some strategies to overcome it.

5 Tips to Overcome Inefficient Meetings

In the workplace, meetings are generally painted as a draining activity that is overwhelming, time-consuming, and useless. When is the last time you met someone that enjoyed and looks forward to reoccurring meetings? If you’ve had a chance to encounter someone that loves attending meetings, it is probably because their organization has a positive meeting culture.

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Companies can, however, help their employees avoid these feelings; meetings do not need to be a draining activity. When a company invests in their meeting productivity and culture, meetings can become an energizing and efficient activity that provides clarity and helps you develop professionally. 

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The easiest example is one-on-one meetings. When a clear agenda is set, and both attendees add talking points and follow up on past action items, the direct report can be empowered to use the set time to discuss roadblocks and have meaningful career conversations.

 

Many organizations do not see the benefits of investing in their meeting culture. Whether it is because they are not aware of a meeting problem or are too far removed from noticing the consequences, inefficient meetings are an expensive problem for a company to have. The meeting problem costs US companies $37 billion annually.

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The first step in addressing an inefficient or lacking meeting culture is bringing awareness to the cost of your meetings. If you can quantify to cost of an inefficient meeting, you will be armed with leverage for the conversion with your leadership team about why this problem needs to be solved. This blog post will discuss the signs of an efficient meeting, why you should calculate the cost of your meetings and tips to optimize your meeting culture.

What are the signs of an efficient meeting? 

Inefficient meetings manifest differently in various organizations; they can be hard to spot! Thankfully, we’ve outlined the top symptoms of a lacking meeting culture that is probable to lead to inefficient meetings. 

1. The meeting is unprepared 

Being unprepared for a meeting can manifest itself in different ways. If a meeting is not prepared adequately with a meeting agenda, the meeting host should cancel the meeting and reschedule.  The agenda and supporting documents should be sent well in advance so that participants have the opportunity to be prepared. Meeting expectations should also be clarified by the meeting host to ensure that everyone’s time is better respected.

Being unprepared is definitely a sign of a bad meeting because, without preparation, participants cannot effectively contribute to the conversation. 

2. The meetings are long, but nothing seems to get done

If you leave a meeting feeling unclear as to what was accomplished, it was probably a bad meeting. Successful meetings should provide a clear decision, consensus or outline of what needs to be accomplished by the next meeting. A clear purpose should always be set for a meeting so that you and the team know exactly what you’re working towards.

3. Only a few people participate in the meeting 

A meeting should be a discussion about various topics. If only one person is speaking during your entire meeting, you are no longer in a meeting; you’re in a presentation. A productive and healthy meeting will allow everyone to feel comfortable and safe sharing their talking points, insights, comments and questions during meetings. This is important because if people’s thoughts and opinions aren’t being heard, an organizational bias will start being built in the company. 

4. The meeting times are not respected 

Punctuality in any setting is a way of showing respect for everyone’s time. Arriving late to a meeting is disrespectful to the time of all the other meeting attendees that have committed to the meeting time and duration said duration. 

Punctuality should be set as a precedent with your team and something that the meeting facilitator needs to lead by example.

Why calculate the cost of your meetings? 

Calculating the cost of your meetings is the first step in addressing an organization’s meeting problem. When the cost of a meeting is quantified, it will be easier for the leadership team to understand the depth and urgency of the meeting problem. After all, inefficient meetings are expensive! Inefficiently using your colleagues' time and taking them away from high-priority work comes at a cost. Calculating the cost of your meetings will allow you to

  • Increase meeting productivity 
  • Visualize the value of your team's time 
  • Only schedule relevant meetings 
  • Only invite essential participants 
  • Find alternate meeting strategies, such as asynchronous meetings 

What factors into the cost of a meeting?

There are different ways to calculate the cost of a meeting. The fastest is to use a meeting cost calculator. This tool will consider the following factors in providing the total cost of your meeting:

Participants attending the meeting

How many people attend the meeting is important to consider in calculating the cost of your meeting. Additionally, knowing their salary or an average of their salary will provide the most accurate results.

The cadence of the meeting 

Is this a weekly, monthly, quarterly or annual meeting? The frequency should be considered when calculating the cost of the meetings.

Length of the meeting

How long does the meeting last? Accounting for the duration of the meetings should be included in the calculation

Tips to Optimize Your Meetings

Now that you’ve calculated the cost of your meetings, you are probably wondering what you should do next to optimize your meetings for more efficiency. Below are four tips to help increase your meeting productivity.

Tip 1: Use the right tech stack

Productivity software is designed to help you have seamless workflows. Through their unique features that are carefully designed and tested for users’ specific use cases, implementing them into your meeting culture and routines will provide an important difference in your meeting efficiency. Popular meeting productivity tools that most hyper-efficient teams use include: 

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Tip 2: Prepare an agenda  

An unprepared meeting, or a meeting without an agenda, is not worth attending as it will not be productive. By sending out a meeting agenda before the meeting, attendees can prepare their talking point to ensure a more fruitful discussion. Moreover, creating a meeting agenda removes the pre-meeting anxiety of not knowing what will be covered during the conversation. The meeting agenda should be detailed with talking points and important resources. For example, if you are in a re-branding meeting, including resources like previous branding guidelines, or a color palette generator would be helpful.

Different types of meetings include different agendas. A project kick-off meeting will not discuss the same talking points as cross-functional monthly sync. Consulting different meeting agenda examples to gain inspiration on recommended talking points can help provide an outline for the meeting conversation. 

Tip 3: Start and end on time

The time set within the meeting’s calendar invite should be respected: the meeting should start on time and end on time. Although this seems like a simple tip, it shows the meeting host is respectful of everyone’s time. Additionally, it creates predictability and reliability and sets clear expectations allowing attendees to plan the rest of their day. In the case where the discussion overflows by a few minutes, simply ask the participants if that is okay, or schedule a follow-up meeting. 

Tip 4: Be experimental 

With the work-from-home movement and increased hybrid work, organizations have been forced to become more experimental and adapt their meeting culture accordingly. Trying different types of meetings and experiencing your organization's meeting culture can have positive effects on company-wide meeting productivity. 

For example, some companies will have focus days where meetings are strongly discouraged, if not banned. This creates focus time in everyone’s calendar where they can focus on uninterrupted work and eliminate outside distractions and unnecessary noise. Other companies will opt for asynchronous meetings powered by a meeting note app. In these types of meetings, everyone adds their talking points and reads over the discussion on their own time. 

Tip 5: Gather feedback

As you implement changes to your meeting culture, it is imperative that you continue to gather feedback from your team as to what they appreciate and what they’d like to change. Remember, honest feedback is a gift and will only lead to positive results if executed. 

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In all, meetings don’t need to be a draining activity that is dreaded across an organization. When optimized according to the suggested tips from this article, the meeting can become an energizing activity that drives organizational progress and fosters culture. 

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