What comes to your mind when you hear the word ‘meeting’?
Chances are you’re thinking of a profanity or something worse. Yes, the word ‘meeting’ has a bad rap. People are unmotivated before they even enter the meeting room… At the same time, well-managed meetings could do so much for you. If people were happy to attend your meetings, your team could do great things together.
But why is it that meetings are so unpopular? Here we’ve listed 5 main reasons – and what you can do to change people’s minds about them.
1) Meetings are notoriously ineffective
No wonder people hate meetings:
They’re notoriously ineffective.
What most organizations end up doing is shoving people into a meeting room and expecting them to be wildly productive. But without proper management, it’s hard to get a group of people to pull in the same direction.
As a result, meetings become ineffective. In fact, 47% of all meetings are seen as a time-suck. It’s easy to see why people don’t feel excited about something that keeps them from doing more important work.
Happy employees mean better meetings, so turning your ineffective meetings into something productive should be a priority. But how do you do it?
Take these three simple steps:
- Prepare. It doesn’t matter if you’re a manager of a meeting or an attendant – preparing for it is a must. It makes sense, doesn’t it? If everyone’s taken the time to think about the issues you discuss, your meeting doesn’t get stalled by meaningless word-twisting or self-evident questions.
- Plan. Yes, we know: With a busy schedule, it’s hard to prioritize meeting planning. But effective meeting planning comes down to one thing – systems. If you have the right systems in place, planning your meetings is no longer a time-consuming task. Create guidelines that explain when, how and why meetings should be held.
- Make every meeting count. Here’s a new rule of thumb for your meetings: they all need to have a purpose. Only then can your meetings feel meaningful again.
2) Annoying meeting behavior takes its toll
Why is it that meetings don’t work?
One reason is without a doubt annoying and bad meeting behavior. You know, when people come late to meetings, do other work during them, take over the entire meeting or don’t speak up at all.
Yup, that kind of behavior can have a huge impact on meetings by taking up valuable meeting time. Plus, the message other meeting participants get is: “It’s beneath me to prioritize this worthless meeting.” Obviously, this leaves them feeling like they could’ve spent their time more productively.
It’s not that meeting behavior can’t be changed. It’s just that we’ve become accustomed to the universal “truth” that meetings are unnecessary and there’s nothing we can do about it. So we feel entitled to act as we want because, hey – what else can we do?
Any behavior can change for the better and that’s also the case with bad meeting behavior. The question is: How?
Here are a couple of ideas you can use right away:
- Make a plan. Create a plan to address these problems. What’s your policy on lateness? How do you get people to speak up or give others a chance to speak?
- Follow up. It’s not enough to plan how to stop annoying meeting behavior in its tracks. You need to apply your plan in real life and then ensure it’s implemented. And not just once, but on a continuing basis – say every six months.
While annoying meeting behavior is disruptive, it’s not the root cause for bad meetings. In the following, we’ll look at what you can do to truly transform your meetings.
3) Bad meeting management keeps you from holding meaningful meetings
The MAIN reasons people don’t like meetings is that they’re terribly managed.
That’s right – bad meeting management is, in the end, the reason people see your meeting in a negative light.
If a meeting is poorly managed, the meeting doesn’t have any structure. There are no expectations participants have to live up to and no consistency in terms of how the meeting is held. No one follows up on the meeting outcome, so the meeting is pretty much pointless.
Fortunately, bad meeting management is a fixable problem. Here’s what to do instead:
Create meeting guidelines that streamline meeting management in your organization.
The idea is that anyone can use these meeting guidelines and because they do, all meetings always look the same. People know what to expect and what’s expected of them.
The guidelines contain instructions on how to prepare a meeting, how to hold a meeting and how to follow up on meeting decisions. And it’s detailed enough to address things that can derail an entire meeting, like what the meeting manager should do when the meeting is delayed by technical issues.
To sum it up, consistency ensures people are happy with your meetings.
Of course, that’s not all. Below, we’ll look at two more things your co-workers might hate about your meetings.
4) Meetings interrupt the work day
Can you blame your co-workers for not liking your meetings?
After all, meetings are usually held at random times and more often than not, they interrupt the workday.
So the meeting doesn’t just take up the actual meeting time. If a meeting starts at 11 AM, it’s hard to get focused work done before. It takes about 20 minutes to get back on track after switching tasks, so for at least 20 minutes after the meeting, meeting participants will struggle to get other tasks done. Plus, chances are they’ll have more than one meeting that day, so these interruptions add up.
Now, the problem is not that meetings are useless. Done right they’re a powerful tool and they’re essential for teamwork.
But instead of scheduling meetings at random times, try scheduling them at times when they don’t interrupt the day. For example, hold your meeting first thing in the morning or late in the afternoon.
Plus, motivate your team. Show them why your meetings matter, so your meeting doesn’t feel like a pointless interruption. If they spend half an hour in a meeting room, this is time well spent if it helps them get their work done.
For example, encourage meeting participants to share things that are holding them back in their work. Together, you brainstorm a solution and share experiences. See how that could instantly make meetings more valuable to them?
And don’t forget to keep your meetings short – 15-30 minutes should be more than enough time.
5) Too many meetings waste everyone’s time
Last but not least, the reason people hate your meetings is that there are just too many of them.
According to some estimates, employees use an average of 4.5 hours in status meetings every week. Middle managers use 35% of their time and upper management 50% of their time in meetings. Are all those meetings necessary? It’s safe to assume they’re not.
But how do you know which meetings are unnecessary?
With your team, do a meeting audit every few months. Ask yourself: What types of meetings are useful? What types of meetings don’t add any value?
When you know a bit better what meetings work for your team, define standards for your meetings. When can a meeting be held? Why/why not? Don’t forget to define how to replace meetings – with email, Slack or something else?
Conclusion: Your meetings can be useful and fun
There you have it – now you know why people associate your meetings with bad things.
Fortunately, you can use the easy tweaks we’ve laid out here to turn things around.
In the end, these tweaks can have a huge impact on how productive your meetings are. And that could save your countless hours of unproductive work.
Over to you:
I’d love to get your take on things. Have you tried any of the tips we’ve shared here? Or do you have any other tips that have worked for you? Share in the comment section below.