5 Tips Overcome Inefficient Meetings





Guest post


Meetings consume a large portion of an employee's day and are often the primary mechanism for workplace communication. Sometimes, the outcome of a meeting is not truly reflective of the number of resources pooled to conduct the meeting.

A Forbes article suggested that more than 34% of professionals waste between two and five hours per week on unproductive calls or meetings. Additionally, 67% of the professionals surveyed claimed that spending too much time in meetings distracted them from making an impact at work.

This meeting productivity problem costs US companies $37 billion annually.Many organizations do not see the benefits of investing in their meeting culture. Some reasons why you should invest into more productive meetings include:

  1. Increased workplace productivity: employees are motivated after a productive meeting to work more efficiently, and their work quality and turnaround time increase.
  2. Increased company-wide organization: by removing inefficient meetings, the improved communication between employees will foster more vital and healthier meeting habits. These habits can include action item tracking or always preparing a meeting agenda.
  3. Increase employee engagement: meetings do not need to be a draining activity that the entire company dreads. When done correctly, they can be an engaging and pleasant experience that employees look forward to.

This blog post will explain how to overcome inefficient meetings and turn your organization's meeting culture from draining to engaging. This post was written by Carolina Lopez from Fellow.app who frequently writes about meeting management.

How to Overcome Inefficient Meetings

An efficient meeting starts on time, is well managed, includes only relevant attendees, and is well documented to stay on track with goals, objectives, and action items. Attendees should be thoughtfully selected for a specific purpose.

For example, the entire marketing team is meeting to brainstorm a new campaign after writing down their thoughts on a doc beforehand.

When done correctly, meetings can provide an open discussion, and deliver actionable results. Attendees should leave the meeting clear-headed and empowered to take the following steps.

1. Calculate the Cost of Your Meetings

Quantifying the cost of a meeting is the first step in overcoming inefficient meetings. But before explaining how to calculate the cost of your meeting, it is essential to understand why this is an important metric to qualify. As mentioned above, many organizations are not aware of their meeting problem.

However, when the cost of a meeting is quantified, it is easier to visualize the depth and urgency of the inefficient use of time. Ultimately, calculating the cost of your meetings will allow:

  • Increase meeting productivity: teams might reach conclusions faster and send important information in advance if they want to reduce meeting time, increasing productivity.
  • Visualize the value of your team's time: knowing the cost of time might create a more straightforward assessment of whether you should hold the meeting.
  • Find alternate meeting strategies, such as asynchronous meetings: Maybe not everyone needs to be present, record the overall meeting or share an asynchronous video for everyone to watch in their own time.

There are different ways to calculate the cost of a meeting, the fastest being to use a meeting cost calculator. This tool will consider the number of participants and their salary, the duration of the meeting, and its cadence to provide the total cost of a meeting.

2. Use the Right Tech Stack

Different software can solve certain aspects of inefficient meetings. For example, if your meetings rarely have prepared notes, a meeting agenda software that notifies attendees to add talking points to the agenda before the meeting could be a good idea.

The core is to leverage tools and workflows for your meetings to run smoothly. Managing effective communication, especially cross-departmental communication, can become increasingly challenging with remote and hybrid work.

Tools to include in your tech stack include a video conferencing app, note-taking software, and a calendar management app to schedule the meeting. These three types of tools are the baseline: after successfully integrating those, you can choose to add additional software to your workflow.

Think of scheduling apps, 1:1 meeting tools, meeting transcription tools, anonymous feedback tools, or even task management tools like Rock.

For meetings in particular, tools like Fellow.app help managers and their teams build effective meeting habits.

Teams can create collaborative agendas, action item tracking, and leverage a library of expert-approved meeting templates.

3. Prepare an agenda

Before attending any meeting, it is imperative to prepare a meeting agenda.. You can lose valuable time or easily go off-track if you don’t have a pre-made agenda outlining different talking points alongside relevant support documents.

Coming prepared for meetings should be instilled in your company culture. Different meetings require different agendas. For example, an agile meeting check-in meeting will not include the same talking points as a sales stand-up meeting or an onboarding training meeting.

As there are so many kinds of meetings, a best practice is to review different meeting agenda examples. This can help all attendees identify which topics are relevant to cover. Note that sending the agenda out as early as possible is best, try to always release one at least 24 to 48 hours before the meeting.

4. Set Rules

Establishing guidelines and meeting rules to create a safe and productive meeting environment is essential. These guidelines can be set in the meeting agenda or as part of your onboarding if they apply to all meetings in your company.Participants should feel respected and comfortable speaking and sharing ideas.

Rules also include a mechanism to manage the conversation in case it gets too off-topic. A round table approach is an excellent strategy to balance the conversation.  Examples of meeting rules can include:

  • Turn your phone to silent to minimize distractions
  • Do not speak while others are speaking
  • Arrive on time to be respectful of everyone’s time
  • Add your talking points to the agenda before the meeting
  • Discuss topics that concern the entire team
  • Keep your video on during the meeting
  • Attendees that are not present must follow up by reading the meeting minutes

5. Only Invite Essential Participants

Attendees should not feel shy to decline an invitation to a meeting if the issue does not concern them. Part of efficient meetings includes keeping the list of attendees lean: only those connected to the topic or looking to contribute should attend the meeting.

Many organizers tend to invite everyone in their contact list to meetings as they believe it is a best practice. In reality, this reduces engagement. To find out if someone should attend a meeting, ask yourself:

  • To achieve the ideal outcome of this meeting, who needs to be present?
  • Whose perspective is required to have a productive conversation in the meeting?
  • Who can just listen to a meeting recording or simply review the post-meeting notes instead of attending?

The answers to these questions should reflect your invite list.

Finally, as habits, routines, and workflows change, it is crucial to continuously gather feedback through a feedback app. The insights from either positive feedback or negative feedback will help managers understand how their team is adapting and if they appreciate the change.

This will help inform if the desired impact is happening and its benefits.

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