Meetings Can Be Effective. Really. - 8 October 2019

Meetings Can Be Effective. Really.

Meetings are the lifeblood of any successful business as the platform to share ideas, provide feedback and make valuable decisions. They push things forward and bring the kind of creative solutions that only face-to-face interaction can bring. Or at least that is the theory....

But, in reality, meetings have gained a reputation as the place productivity goes to die (47% of workers have confirmed this idea).

Yep. We've all been in those meetings. The ones with no agenda, the conversation veers off at tangents and everyone leaves. Or wants to. Hours can go by, and no one is the wiser than when the session began.

Time Wasted and Profit Lost

The Journal of Organizational Behaviour found that "in the case of meetings, wasted time seems to be an accepted norm," where it is viewed badly in all other areas of business.

And it's not just time that is being wasted. Recent studies have found that ineffective meetings cost businesses a whopping $399 billion in 2019.

So, be honest with yourself. Are your meetings effective? It might be that you and your team perform well. Nonetheless, judging by most recent academic opinion, we might benefit from stepping back and taking stock:

Is a Meeting Necessary?

Think before you book. Some 'meetings' masquerade as meetings. If the "meeting" is simply one person speaking with no discussion, that's technically a presentation. If a "meeting" has been called simply so one team member can provide a status update, the value in holding that is likely to be limited.

Creating an on-going sharing and collaboration environment, (using apps like Slack, Trello etc) can help. All the pertinent information should already be in the hands of those who need it. No need for an 'update' meeting. Your meetings can focus solely on discussion and decision-making. Much more effective and productive.

Review the Attendee List

A large meeting can simply be a talking shop. Adding people for political reasons can kill the meeting's effectiveness, especially if there are people there who are not directly invested in the project.

By limiting the number of people to those who are directly involved, decisions can be made, and work can progress.

If you've been invited to attend a meeting, check the attendee list beforehand and make sure you are up-to-speed on what they are working on. This will save time on your behalf and allow you to provide useful feedback or input.

Location, Location, Location

In most cases, you'll have access to your own meeting space. But sometimes it is worth taking the discussion into a new environment, offsite. This can remove the discussion from the shackles of the workplace and the interruptions that can come with it.

It's also worth thinking about those colleagues who work remotely. Using apps like Skype and WhatsApp, can free you up from having constant diary clashes. Embrace technology and benefit from the increased flexibility.

Prepare an Agenda & Stick to Time

Map out a clear agenda. And send it to attendees before the meeting. Choose someone to lead the meeting, move the conversation along and keep to time. 40% of meetings apparently start late. Start on time and stick to the agenda.

Also, factor in a "holding pen" for points raised. They might have raised an important point that needs discussing but does not aid the end goal of that specific meeting. Acknowledging that point and tabling till the end of that meeting or the next will allow that colleague to feel valued and heard, while not hindering the progress of the meeting.

Consider what your "goals" are. For example, "make a decision on the purchase", "designate roles for the campaign" or "choose a new logo design". These should be allocated to agenda items and can be used to determine whether your meeting has been effective or not.

Have you achieved all your goals? If not, why not?

Also, this can help refine the discussion. While a lot of technical detail and information might seem pertinent to the meeting it might not be necessary at that time, could be discussed later and have no direct bearing on the goal.

And allocate someone reliable to take concise minutes.

Encourage Input and Note-Taking

Whilst it's important that your agenda is controlled, you don't want to stifle people's input. Factor in short periods for feedback and questions. And actively encourage notetaking by calling attendees to respond and input on specific points.

Keeping the attendees engaged is vital to the meeting's effectiveness and getting the widest range of input will also help achieve the meeting's goal.


Send your 'minutes' out the same day or within a couple of days at most. Make sure everyone knows who's been asked to action a point and when they need to deliver.

Good luck!

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