We’ve pulled together a checklist of 10 symptoms of a bad meeting culture. Do you dare take it to see if yours make the grade?
Ask most people how they feel about meetings and you’re likely to be met with an aggrieved sigh and an epic eye roll rather than any enthusiasm for collaborating with their colleagues.
However, ask the same people what they like most about working for their company and the majority will tell you it’s the people they work with. So what makes workers, who like their colleagues and enjoy cooperating with them, groan when they’re forced into a room with them?
Meetings are a fantastic project management tool, a great way to communicate to a group effectively and develop ideas that would be impossible in a one to one setting. However, too many meetings are completely unnecessary or so badly run that they’ve developed a bit of a bad reputation.
And it’s not just staff morale that’s being damaged by bad meetings, recent research has revealed that US businesses lose £37 billion every year because of unnecessary meetings. In the UK we don’t fare much better, with a recent study by Citrix showing that Brits waste a year of their lives in pointless meetings, and consider a third of all daily meetings to be a total waste of time.
If you want to get an idea of how much time you’re wasting in pointless meetings, try out our meetings calculator.
So if you know you’ve got a case of chronic bad meetings, what can you do? First of all it is important to understand whether you really need a meeting, or whether an alternative means of communication would work.
Consider whether this is something you can work on independently, if what you need to say could be communicated in an email or if communication is necessary between attendees in real-time (if not, you could just call them directly).
Do not hold a meeting because it is your kneejerk reaction and you’re not entirely sure what you’re going to get out of it. Everybody hates that guy.
Once you’ve decided you absolutely, comprehensively, definitely do 100% need to hold a meeting, here are some ground rules:
Keep it small
The more people there are in the room, the less chance you have of everyone remaining focused on the task and the greater the chance that people will begin chatting amongst themselves. More attendees means fewer voices get heard and those who don’t get bored and distracted.
Look at five or six (including you) as your upper limit. If you’ve got more people on your attendance list, think hard about why you are inviting people and if they are really going to be adding to the discussion. Save their time and yours by cutting them from the list.
If the only people in the room are those who are very important to the task in hand, you’re much more likely to be able to keep the group on-topic. As soon as people who are not really involved or qualified are included, the quality of the discussion is reduced and no real progress is made.
If people need to be kept informed but don’t need to be involved in the decision, you can communicate with them after the meeting.
Get everyone informed
Make sure everyone knows at least 24 hours in advance what the topic of the meeting is and what you hope to achieve. Ensure that everyone knows you expect them to have reviewed the material before attending.
It’s a good idea to put your information in the meeting invite itself as that way it won’t get lost in a mountain of emails.
Focus on decisions, not discussions
If everyone has been given all the information they need in advance of the meeting, it allows you to focus immediately on discussing – and then deciding on – what needs to happen next. Your aim for the meeting should be to make a firm decision or come up with proposed solutions rather than a therapy session for everyone to bring up their personal gripes without offering any ideas.
This is much more effective when you set a firm topic and send people the information they need ahead of time.
Keep it short
Meeting schedulers have made everyone think that a meeting has to be at least 30 minutes long, but that’s not the case. Many effective meetings are closer to 10 to 15 minutes as people are informed when they attend, can quickly thrash out their plans and focus on what needs to happen next. If you’re planning a shorter meeting, ensure people understand this in advance.
Aim for 15 minutes and don’t be afraid to get everyone quickly back on track if they stray from the topic; efficient meetings must be focused.
Become a better meeting facilitator
While many of these points seem like common sense, running an effective meeting is tough, especially when the topic is contentious or political. There’s a reason there are so many bad meetings! If you’d like help to become a more effective meeting facilitator and presenter, our Facilitation and Effective Meetings classroom course could be the answer you’ve been looking for.