Did you ever watch the BBC comedy drama Twenty Twelve? The spoof documentary followed the team organising the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Most of the scenes took place around a boardroom table, with the characters discussing seemingly unimportant issues for hours on end. Does that sound familiar?
Meetings are a necessary part of our working lives and done properly, can be a valuable tool. However for many people, rather than helping us work more effectively, meetings are viewed as a waste of time and even in some cases, thoroughly demoralising for all concerned.
What do meetings mean to you?
A recent study by software company Atlassian turned up some interesting figures about how people view meetings. Just look at these statistics:
- most employees attend an average of 62 meetings every month
- half of the meetings attended were considered a waste of time
- a total of 31 hours were spent in unproductive meetings each month
And of the meeting goers interviewed:
- 91% daydreamed during meetings
- 39% actually fell asleep during a meeting
- 73% did other work in meetings
- 47% said meetings were the number one time waster in the office
Make your meetings count
So nearly half of all people who took part in the research said that meetings were their number one time waster - and we thought that was Facebook! So how can you ensure that your meetings are useful, productive and something that your team look forward to rather than dread?
Here are our top ten tips:
Know why you're having a meeting - be clear about why you're holding a meeting and what you want to achieve. It might be a weekly gathering to update your team, a meeting to decide a course of action or an opportunity to discuss and solve a problem. They're all valid reasons for getting everyone together - holding a weekly meeting just because you think you should, is not!
Think about the best time to meet - not everyone will be at their most alert at 9am on a Monday morning - or at their most productive at 5pm on a Friday afternoon. Think about your team and when they're likely to respond best. A study by online scheduling service WhenIsGood, seems to show that Tuesday at 3pm works best for most teams. Perhaps try out a range of different days and times and see what suits you.
Set an agenda - this is the best way to make your meetings useful and meaningful. Briefly list the points you want to cover and allocate each item a set amount of time. If you haven't reached a conclusion within the given time, defer it to the end of the meeting or arrange for the issue to be dealt with by a smaller group at a later date. Crucially, it's up to whoever's running the meeting to ensure that the agenda and time frames are strictly adhered to.
Circulate the agenda - let people have advance notice of the agenda so they have time to think about the topics being discussed. Not everyone is good at 'thinking on their feet' and some people are much better at coming up with solutions to problems or creative ideas when they've had a bit of time to mull over the issue.
Keep it short - no matter how much you like the sound of your own voice, the biggest bug bare with meetings is that they go on for too long. Keep your agenda short - probably no more than 5 items is good for a regular team meeting. Allocate a short burst of time to each item and don't be tempted to run over.
Involve everyone - the main point of a team meeting is to get everyone involved. There are always those who will happily shout to get their point across, but don't forget about the people who are naturally quieter. Encourage them to make their views heard and they might just be able to solve your problem.
Listen - don't be that person who runs a meeting, having already decided how something's going to be done. If you invite people to a meeting, be prepared to listen to them and take their points on board. If you don't, you'll quickly find they lose interest in participating.
Set clear action points - at the end of the meeting, make sure everyone is clear about who's doing what. Select an individual, a priority level and a due date for the action item so your expectations are clear. This is how Apple and Google operate and it seems to work for them!
Use technology - We're all now used to remote meetings over Zoom etc, although sometimes it's still more effective to actually meet in person.
Make it fun - meetings are about getting things done but that doesn't mean they have to be as dull as ditch water. Create a relaxed atmosphere, allow space for a bit of humour and you'll find that your team members open up and are willing to play a more active role in the meeting.
We're here to help
We'd love to hear your tips for making meetings useful and productive - let us know what you do. And while we're on the subject, take a look at our meeting room tables and conference chairs or call us on 0344 755 3018 and one of our team will be happy to help you.