Bosses Think 67% of Meetings Are Failures – Are Yours?
Meetings are one of those events in the company’s calendar which not everyone likes.
And it’s for a good reason.
Just how much productivity can you confidently say results from office meetings?
Have you ever thought about the time wasted waiting for some attendees despite the starting time having been communicated? How much time is lost when colleagues check their email or chat while the meeting is in progress?
What about when another meeting has to be held because the manager wasn’t present and he didn’t agree with the decision reached?
When you combine these and many other situations, you see exactly why meetings are becoming burdensome to many.
When bosses express their dissatisfaction with meetings, it’s hard to convince them otherwise.
But does it have to be like that?
REASONS FOR UNPRODUCTIVE MEETINGS
Meetings are unavoidable if we are to work together. And with companies emphasizing on teamwork, there’s no escaping the office meeting.
But something needs to be done urgently. If productivity is to be maintained, or hopefully increased, then the situation needs to change.
To help you avoid meeting failures, we have some tips for you.
But first, let’s see why meetings fail. Understanding the cause of the problem helps to solve it.
Misunderstanding the ‘Why’
Do failing meetings have a purpose?
The meeting should have a purpose.
Because without one, then you’re not having a meeting. You might consider calling it a chat session with colleagues.
But having a purpose is not all that’s needed.
You could have a purpose but as the meeting convener, maybe you’re the only one who understands it.
If that is the case, then you could be headed towards an unpleasant result.
In many cases, especially where the team is not very united, the meeting invitation could spark all sorts of fears.
If there have been unresolved conflicts between team members, some may come to the meeting expecting a confrontation.
With such an attitude, a small comment from one attendee could result in a bitter exchange.
To avoid this, it is important to make the communication clear about the reason for the meeting. If you’re aware of bad blood between team members or colleagues, try addressing them before the meeting.
Just a little effort will go a long way.
You can approach the colleagues individually and have a chat with them about the meeting.
Let them know what you look to achieve through the meeting and advise on how they can contribute.
When making a presentation, you need to make sure you’re not too detailed. If you love details, make that a part of your homework.
You will be able to build a solid case if you were thorough in your research.
But when it comes to the presentation, you need to be succinct.
This is especially the case when dealing with the higher management. These are people who prefer getting the main point and not dwelling on too much information.
To have these people pay attention, get the figures and facts which are interesting or even shocking and use them. These should be summaries and conclusions reached from your research.
Since you have the details, you can give these when called upon.
Over-Reliance on Slides
Another mistake you could easily make during presentation is the over-reliance on PowerPoint.
You obviously know that visuals are great for communication and that’s why you included them.
But did you know that over-reliance on the slides is counter-productive?
When you’re making a presentation, the primary communication tool is you.
The visuals, as important as they are, are secondary. They are meant to complement the words you speak.
If you put too much emphasis on the visuals, then you risk communicating something different.
If all you do is reiterate what you have on the slides, then you’re saying that the slide should replace you.
It could then be better and time-saving to share the slide and have everyone go through it by themselves.
This can quickly lead to lower concentration levels among attendees.
If the meeting involves higher management, then it could get worse.
They could accuse you—maybe silently—of wasting their time.
You will not get the kind of input you hoped for. And the meeting will be a failure.
Coming to Meetings Late
A common problem facing many office meetings are people coming in late. Whether 5 or 10 minutes late, the time has an impact.
You will have to either wait for those not yet available or start off without them.
Either case is bad for the success of the meeting.
If you choose to wait for them, you drag the meeting and it will take longer than expected. This is also unfair to those who came on time.
They may conclude that being late is acceptable and in the next meeting, they might be the ones coming in late.
Someone else might conclude that the late attendee is being disrespectful of the others.
This could develop a bad attitude towards him even before the meeting is underway.
The level of openness and mutual respect in such a situation goes down.
In the event that you decide to go ahead with the meeting despite other being late, you set yourself up for unnecessary questions later.
The late members of the team will in one way or another require to be updated.
They will take the rest back to what has already been discussed and that delays the meeting progress. If they wait till the end to get clarification, then they don’t make any meaningful contributions.
Lack of Engagement
Engagement levels during meetings are often low.
This is occasioned by the multitasking which has been gladly embraced as a show of productivity.
Multitasking is commonly touted as the must-have skill for the modern employee or business leader. But multitasking is counter-productive. The human mind cannot do multiple tasks at the same time.
Multitasking only leads to the lack of concentration in at least one task.
When some in the meeting constantly check and reply to emails, send text messages or even receive calls, chances are that they’re not fully in the meeting. Despite what they claim, they’re not present.
This leads to a disconnect between them and those concentrating.
From the movements connected to using the phone, others get distracted too.
This distraction is not only annoying but also serves to ensure that the purpose of the meeting is not achieved.
When this becomes the norm in your meetings, there will be little respect for them.
There will be all sorts of behaviors exhibited during meetings and the rate of success will go down further.
Another cause for unproductivity in meetings is monologues.
This can be from the person making a presentation or anyone who speaks too much. If everyone has to listen to only one person, then it’s no longer a meeting.
Maybe it should be called a speech with other forming the audience.
Monologues take over the meeting due to poor planning and executing. If the meeting convener cannot control how much time someone uses, success cannot be guaranteed.
Noting that there are different personalities in the team, it’s important to take control of the flow of communication.
You will need to ensure no one person takes much time explaining their ideas.
Keep in mind that there are colleagues who naturally talk more and command attention more than others.
These can go to the extent of interjecting when others are speaking and it can rub off wrongly on the less talkative members.
As long as some are not getting the opportunity to give their input, consider the meeting unsuccessful. You have had a gathering without the input of those you sought to hear from.
Timing is also key for meetings.
Plan to have it in the evening, 30 minutes before the end of the working day and you’ll have very little focus.
Have it after lunch and you risk having people who are still thinking about their lunch conversations.
And did you know that the kind of food taken affects your concentration? Fast foods negatively affect concentration while foods like Blueberries, leafy green vegetables and fatty fish boost concentration.
Meetings held after lunch can be tricky; but possible all the same.
Although it’s easy to say that the most productive meetings are those held in the morning, there are many factors to be considered.
Many companies have meetings every Monday morning to plan for the week ahead.
But what happens if someone really wanted to finish off some task early in the morning?
Having such a person in the meeting will not increase the success rate.
At best, he might be wondering when he will go back to his job.
AVOIDING UNPRODUCTIVE MEETINGS
The above challenges can be avoided by making adjustments especially in the planning of meetings.
Although there is no one-size-fits-all solution for meetings, some tips can get you loving the meetings you have.
Instead of having meetings just for the sake of it, you can get some real value from the sittings.
You can have real issues tackled and get the results you expect.
This will have the effect of making the whole team productive and the company more successful.
Here are some tips you can implement depending on your situation.
Avoid Informational or Status Update Meetings
There are meetings which can be called to give an update on the progress of a project.
These are largely non-essential. They are not critical meetings which must be held.
Unless the meeting includes discussing the next steps in the project, do not have it.
Updates on project progress should be communicated via email.
Any questions or responses can be addressed through email to the concerned person.
In the event that there is need to discuss the next steps to be taken, then you can call for a meeting.
The problem with meetings intended to simply share information is that in most cases, some already have the information. This will lead to some seeing the meeting as a waste of their time.
All the pending work they had will be postponed as they attend a meeting there was never a need for.
The presence of such a colleague in the meeting will add very little value if any.
These are the people likely to start sleeping during the meeting. If they have their phones nearby, they will likely get busy with them.
Save everyone the waste of time and they will gladly attend the meeting when they agree that it’s really necessary.
Have a Clear Purpose
A meeting without a clear purpose is one headed for failure. The purpose of the meeting is the outcome you want to achieve.
If you don’t have this or it’s not clear enough to everyone, you may not achieve your purpose.
To get the purpose of the meeting, ask yourself these two questions:
- What change should the meeting bring?
- How should the participants contribute towards that change?
The answers to these questions will help you be the expert meeting planner.
Everything will be clear and you will have set the meeting up for success. Whenever there is clear direction, everyone sees where they’re headed and the reason for being involved.
When sending the invitation, share the answers to the above questions with those who are to attend the meeting. Let them know what the meeting is to achieve. Go ahead and share the meeting agenda and make it clear.
If you have more than one agenda, list them down in a way that the discussion of one builds on the previous one.
This may however not be possible always and so you shouldn’t struggle much to do it.
Let everyone know what kind of information they’re to share or how their input is to help achieve the overall purpose.
This makes it clear to everyone the value they’re supposed to add to the team and they will come prepared.
Set Up on Time
As with many things in life, preparation is key to success. The same applies to meetings.
Preparations do not end with the sending of the invitation. They go all the way to the minutes before the actual meeting.
If the meeting is being held at your office’s boardroom or other local location, you need to set up.
Setting up will consist of different things depending on your situation.
You will most likely need a projector, a screen (alternatively a wall), maybe some speakers, notebooks and pens for the attendees. If any remote colleague is attending, teleconferencing should be available.
To increase engagement rates for the remote staff, videoconferencing will be the better option. This may require a computer with an internet connection plus a screen as well as a web camera.
These things need to be set up and tested before the meeting starts. Your IT team should do this ahead of time to ensure a smooth flow of the meeting.
In regards to the venue, consider holding your meeting offsite. Some of the benefits you will get when meeting out of the office include increased productivity, creativity and more camaraderie.
Invite the Necessary Attendees Only
Meetings should only be attended by the relevant people and not just anyone.
It’s even worse when many attendees are invited for the purposes of getting different opinions in an issue.
As much as the opinions expressed will be many and different, you’re likely to end up spending too much time unnecessarily.
As if that’s not bad enough, where there are too many people, there are chances that not all of them will air their views.
And if the do, you may have a lengthy discussion in an attempt to make the right decision.
Another problem with having many attendees in a meeting is that some of them may not see the reason for their involvement. And that might be true.
Someone may have attended just to give an opinion on a matter. If this doesn’t directly touch on his duties, won’t it be better for him to have stayed at his desk?
A colleague “forced” to attend a meeting which doesn’t really affect his work will likely have a negative attitude towards it.
This will prevent him from making a valuable contribution.
Communicate Well in Advance
With the purpose and goal of the meeting clear, you should communicate it earliest possible. A one-week notice would be great.
This gives everyone ample time to plan for the meeting and do any homework needed.
Having informed them of the input expected of them, they will have the time to prepare.
For instance, the meeting could be about the latest customer numbers. Before the meeting, the relevant information will have been gathered, data analysis done and even independent conclusions reached.
Remind them to mark their calendars and ask them to confirm their availability.
Most email programs have a meeting invitation template which provides for this.
It is wise to send out a reminder at least a day before the meeting.
If one of the attendees is not in the office, make a point of calling him. If you have a remote staff as part of those invited, get in touch with him.
He should confirm that everything is working well on his side.
Set Some Ground Rules
Come the meeting day, the first thing to do after welcoming everyone is to communicate the ground rules.
To make it easier for you, you can add these at the bottom of the email invitation you sent them earlier.
Let them familiarize themselves with the ground rules to avoid unnecessary interruptions.
You can still go through these rules again and see to it that they are followed.
Some ground rules for meetings include the below. You can have different ones depending on your unique situation.
- No mobile phones
- No side chats
- No food
- No interjections
- No late arrivals
Start and Finish on Time
Many meetings are known to take longer than they’ve been planned for. This is not always justifiable.
As such it results in negative attitudes toward the meetings. They soon become the one thing employees want to avoid.
Always remember that there are other duties to be performed.
“A meeting is an event at which the minutes are kept and the hours are lost.”
– Joseph Stilwell
If your organization is known to waste precious time through meetings, you’ll have a hard time inviting people to them.
To succeed in starting and finishing on time, ensure everyone gets the communication.
Anyone who doesn’t confirm availability for the meeting should be contacted.
If they plan to come, ask them to be seated 3 minutes before starting time.
When discussing the agenda, keep track of time. Do not allow anyone to talk too much.
Let them give the main point then explain it only if someone asks for an explanation.
Put it on Record
Every meeting should have minutes taken. Have the company secretary take minutes or appoint one of you for the task.
The minutes should be clearly typed and shared among the members present at least within 24 hours. This will serve to keep the discussions fresh in the mind.
Minutes also serve as a reference of the meeting held and the decisions made.
During the meetings, see to it that where tasks are identified, specific people are allocated those tasks.
It should be clear who is responsible for what.
This makes it easy to follow up later on and get things done.
If you’re the team leader or a representative of him, it will be your responsibility to follow up. Every task must have a timeline and the people responsible should adhere to that.
In the event that they foresee a possibility not to keep the deadline, they should communicate on time.
This helps the whole team know what is going on and stay on the same page.
This way, you’ll avoid arguments, blame game and unnecessary conflicts.
If you have been having unproductive meetings, follow these tips.
Check what has been ailing your team and make the necessary changes.
With many organizations struggling to see the need for meetings, work towards having a different story to tell.
And if you know someone who needs this advice, share the article with them.