Are your meetings lousy?

Over 1.1 million meetings occur every day in Canada.  Yet, we all complain endlessly about them even though our careers are immersed in them. The average professional spends 5.6 hours in meetings a week. This does not include preparation time or time spending scheduling the meeting.

In a study conducted by Doodle, it found that for average professional, 64% of those surveyed spent more than 5 hours per week coordinating meetings. However, the average person only spends half an hour preparing for a meeting. Basically, the part of a person’s job that takes 25% of their time is only given 30 minutes to organize. Unfortunately, people confuse organizing meetings with planning.

The results of poor meeting planning is: meetings are longer; less efficient; generate fewer results; require more meetings; create frustration at all staff levels; create conflict in meetings; other people dominate the meeting; and cost organizations billions of dollars each year in otherwise productive employee work time

It is was no wonder most professionals who meet on a regular basis admit to daydreaming (91%), missing meetings (96%) or missing parts of meetings (95%) and a large percentage (73%) say they have brought other work to meetings and 39% say they have dozed during meetings. If most people are getting little value from meetings, so why do we keep subjecting ourselves to them?

This CIO letter is looking to stop this insanity. Here is a list of action items one can use today to make your meetings better.

1. Plan for the meeting.

A safe rule of thumb is to spend an equal amount of time preparing as the meeting is long. If you are expecting the meeting to be an hour long then the planning should be an hour long.  Items to be prepared beforehand are:  agenda, hand-outs, decisions to be made presentation material and action items. Detail the agenda and share with the attendees prior to the date and silicate feedback and input.

2. Why are you having the meeting?

Begin your planning by determining the purpose of the meeting. What do you expect the result of the meeting to be? The goal of the meeting needs to be communicated to the attendees both prior to the meeting and at the beginning of the meeting.

3. Take notes.

There is nothing worse than have a meeting and have some great insights but a day later, no one remembers. Designate someone to take notes and distribute a meeting summary including action items with designated responsibilities.

4. Who must attend

Some people like to have an audience. But an office meeting is not the place or the time to practice being a toastmaster. Build a list of those who must be there and should be there.  Send the invite to those who must be there and make it optional for those who should be there. Let them determine if they must be there.

5. Accountability

During every good meeting, great ideas come out and items need to be acted on. However, if no one is assigned a task or there is no method of follow-up, then the time and money invested in at meeting was lost. Have a schedule and timeline for follow-up.

6. Attendee interaction

If you have every attended a seminar or lecture, you know how great these people are at being putting to sleep or daydreaming. To avoid this syndrome, get the people involved; present their thoughts and opinions. Engaging the audience will make it more interesting and get more buy in.

Simply by trying one of these items, you will improve on your meetings. And in the end, is that not why you read this article? Like most things, you must make changes slowly and by making one a habit, that ensures that the action becomes effective.

Barry Johnston

VP Operations