According to Doodle, a company providing scheduling software, business meetings are a waste of time. It’s projected that in 2019, this will cost businesses $399 billion. It surveyed 19 million business meetings in the U.S., U.K., and Germany. With that said, some business meetings are needed, but there are ways to make the necessary ones successful.
1. Is a meeting necessary?
Despite the conclusion that meetings are a waste of time, they are a necessary fact of business life. Meetings are important to employees where team efforts are used for project and other business functions. Brainstorming at meetings is often helpful in decision-making. Meetings are also essential for getting to know customers and vendors. According to Doodle, 76% of people prefer face-to-face meetings, as compared with only 7% favoring conference calls, 5% video calls, and 4% IMs and email (8% had no opinion).
Some organizations schedule regular meetings to review benchmarks (e.g., sales efforts, project development). Some limit meetings for special things (e.g., the launch of a new product). To make meetings worthwhile, determine whether they are necessary. If they are being used to share information and no feedback or give-and-take is desired, consider whether this can be done in another way (e.g., email).
2. Do you have a firm agenda?
What needs to be discussed and what does not? It’s vital to set the agenda so only key matters get covered in the time set for the meeting. According to Doodle, every respondent (100%) said poorly organized meetings were a waste of time or money, and 44% of respondents said that poorly organized meetings meant that attendees didn’t have enough time for the rest of their work.
Review a proposed agenda and eliminate what can be dealt with outside of a meeting. It’s helpful to have a printed agenda for each attendee.
3. Have you invited only key players?
While it’s nice to include various employees in meetings, it may be counterproductive to overextend invitations. According to Doodle, 31% of respondents said irrelevant attendees slowed progress. Determine who needs to be at a meeting before giving out blanket invitations.
4. Did you schedule the meeting properly?
Pick the right date and time. It’s unusual to be able to set a date and time for a meeting that can accommodate everyone’s schedule. Many businesses find it helpful to have a fixed day and time for recurring meetings so employees can schedule accordingly.
According to Doodle, 70% preferred a morning meeting (8 a.m. to noon), while only 19% preferred the afternoon (noon to 5 p.m.). A mere 2% preferred after hours, while 9% preferred before work.
While cancellations may be necessary from time to time (e.g., blizzard shuts down the city), try to avoid them. Cancellations are disruptive and require the chore of rescheduling.
5. Do you have a plan for what happens next?
In my view, a successful meeting means covering the agenda in the time allotted and having the takeaways for what everyone must do after the meeting. According to Doodle, 43% said unclear actions lead to confusion. So include in the meeting what happens next, with clearly defined roles of who’s responsible for what.
Peter Drucker, the premier thought leader in business management, said, “Meetings are a symptom of bad organization. The fewer the meetings the better.” But if you must have meetings from time to time, make them work for you.