Are company meetings useless?

1031820_64648933The company life is all about communication be it direct, face-to-face or virtual and remote with colleagues, clients and company partners. Have you ever counted how many meetings you attend in the period of a month or a year? Many people’s work days consist of meetings almost entirely. After all these hours of discussing most of them say “Now I can get back to work and finally focus on my job”.

Do they not treat meetings like part of their work then? What does this sentence imply? Do they indirectly send the message that the time spent in a meeting was simply counter-productive?

Do we need meetings?

We’ve all been to good and bad meetings. They are inseparable part of our work as they allow us to organize things, delegate tasks, determine the goals and action points. If conducted in a proper way they prove to be quite effective and efficient. However, most employees consider them to be a waste of time. According to the report on Why businesses don’t collaborate?

62% of the surveyed attend from 1-5 meetings each week and 28% attend from 6 to 10.

Most people are not satisfied with the time spent in these meetings and the lack of preparation. The shorter and the more effective the meeting, the more pre-planning is involved.

50% of these meetings are both in person and involving remote participants. The respondents admit that planning the agenda using a wiki can stimulate proper interaction during the meeting, especially in those with remote participants.

92% read agendas sent before the meetings regularly and always. Reading the agenda in advance allows them to be better prepared but they would like to create the agenda together (wiki document) and directly edit it if needed.Replying to email with agenda is not effective and they lose control of what happens to their input.

The time spent on the meeting can be cut by half if there is agenda and if people stick to it.

38 % take notes during the meetings, 24% always, 24% rarely and only 2% never. The notes are usually for their personal use and noted issues are related to the person who write them down. Others take notes and then listen. They read the minutes in the wiki page later.

54% read the notes that are sent after the meeting. They refer to them, look things up,verify decisions and find clarification. For some it’s simply interesting to see what the minute-taker thought was important at the meeting.

Credit to weblogcartoons.com
Credit to weblogcartoons.com

How to make the meeting more effective then?

Being constantly pressed for time we can’t afford to waste precious minutes. But we can actually make  meetings more effective and useful. Here are some  techniques to ensure better business meetings:

Make sure you need a meeting. Ensure that right people are involved in the meeting. Organize a meeting only when it is absolutely necessary. Maybe a one-on-one discussion with someone in your company, a telephone conference call, or a simple exchange of e-mail will be sufficient.  Respect other people’s time without unnecessarily bothering them.

Be prepared. Meetings are part of your work, as in any other work activity, the more prepared you are, the better the results you will achieve.

Prepare an agenda. The list of topics and  the goals of the meeting  play a critical role in the success of any meeting. By sending the agenda and pre-work before the meeting, participants can prepare ahead of time.

Let employees contribute their ideas to the agenda. Discussing agenda beforehand minimizes the risk of focusing on unnecessary and irrelevant issues.

Sick to the time-frame. Start on time and end on time since your colleagues have other obligations as well. This also minimizes the amount of clock-watchers and fidgeting. You also lose trust if you don’t keep promises.

Stick to the agenda. Meetings often tend to  drift off track and stay off track. As a result they lose their focus and when the time’s up we end up at the beginning of the road without achieving meeting goals. Whenever you feel you are getting off track try to push others to get it back in focus.

Specify action points and assign tasks. Don’t assume that all participants are going to remember their assignments and all the details.Make sure there is a minute taker who sends takes notes and later distributes the report to everyone involved. The outcome of the meeting  should be summarized immediately after. There needs to be a specific follow-up plan including the action item, the person responsible for it and the due date.

Get feedback from attendees. For instance, you can ask the participants if the the meeting too long, if they feel that somebody dominate the discussion, whether they got the impression that everyone was well-prepared etc. It’s always valuable input and stimulates further improvement.

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Aspire Blog Team

Aspire Systems is a global technology services firm serving as a trusted technology partner for our customers. We work with some of the world's most innovative enterprises and independent software vendors, helping them leverage technology and outsourcing in our specific areas of expertise. Our services include Product Engineering, Enterprise Solutions, Independent Testing Services and IT Infrastructure Support services. Our core philosophy of "Attention. Always." communicates our belief in lavishing care and attention on our customers and employees.

7 comments

  1. Absolutely right, and speaking to a lot of points that are lost on most folks who organize and attend meetings. Correct as much of this is, though, I have found that doing meetings differently (and more productively) requires a change of mindset that a lot of people are not comfortable with for one reason or another. I have loved using a combination of TimeBridge and Basecamp (from 37Signals) to make the planning, conduct, and followup of my meetings more fruitful. The trick is getting others to partake of those techniques and the web apps that help enable them.

    Good post, worthy reading for many an office dweller. Thanks!

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  2. Basecamp is one several truly great productivity web apps from 37Signals. I have used it for several years and have even paid out of my own pocket for premium versions here and there (though my current and immediate past employers both paid for it themselves, absolving me of the need). It is, essentially, elegant and simple, yet robust web-based project management. The “37Signals ID” additionally lets users use a single login to tap into Backpack and Highrise, which are the company's intranet and contact management offerings respectively.

    Check it out at http://www.basecamphq.com.

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