Companies in the U.S. hold 11 million formal business meetings every day, adding up to 7-15% of the personnel budget for most organizations.
That’s not necessarily bad, but here’s a scary fact: attendees feel that roughly one-third of meetings weren’t worth the time spent in them.
That adds up to a lot of wasted productivity for businesses – and a lot of frustration for the meeting attendees. (Psst, want to know how much meetings are costing your organization in terms of man hours? EventBoard's workplace analytics can help.)
Everyone has way more on their to-do lists than they have time in the day. If a meeting carves out a precious hour, it should be valuable from start to end. When it isn’t, a lack of preparation is often the reason.
That’s why we should all take a page out of the Boy Scouts’ handbook and adopt a “be prepared” motto for meetings.
If you’re the meeting organizer, set a meeting objective and let everyone know what you expect to accomplish. For example, “We’ll draft a timeline for new product rollout” or “we’ll assign tasks for our Q4 initiatives.”
Send out an agenda in advance and ask attendees if there are other items to discuss. Provide background information before the meeting, so others can familiarize themselves with key issues. Reserve a meeting room that will accommodate all of your attendees and has the technology you need.
Even if you’re not the organizer, you can still jump start some of the preparation. If an agenda isn’t sent out, request one. And feel free to ask if a specific topic can/will be covered. Finally, if the organizer does take the time and effort to send out material in advance, make time to read it.
Be sure to start the meeting on time and have all presentations ready to go – yours and other presenters’ too. Don’t waste meeting time figuring out conference room technology or hunting for files. If you take too long getting ready, your coworkers will probably start zoning out or multitasking – and it might be hard to recapture their attention.
Having the agenda handy during the meeting can help keep the discussion on topic. It can also be useful to share the notes you’re taking live-time. Once the meeting is over, you can send out the notes and next steps to the group so they can start working on the action items.
If the conversation starts moving away from the planned topic during the meeting, saying something like “getting back to topic Y, can you help me understand more about …” can help get it back on track.
Everyone benefits from keeping meetings on-target. It's more time efficient, of course. It also improves employee morale because most attendees see meetings as an opportunity to contribute. If the meeting doesn’t cover the right ground, they miss out on a chance to make a difference.
Over time, these benefits add up. A company’s culture is built gradually by routine events and habits. So don't overlook your meetings as the crucial interactions they are. They can mold your culture – good or bad.