Collaboration rests at the core of every successful business – and meetings are a cornerstone of collaboration. At least in theory. We all know what they end up being in practice.
Instead of getting work done, you sit in a boardroom talking about getting work done. Instead of being productive, you and your peers pontificate on how to be productive. Instead of doing something, you do nothing – but you still expend time and energy discussing what you should do.
Unsurprisingly, after a certain point, you simply tune out. Instead of thinking about the purpose of the meeting, you’re watching the clock. You’re daydreaming about your job, about what you’re doing after work, about what you’ll have for lunch … basically, anything but the meeting itself.
Note that we’re not saying you should do away with meetings altogether. Nor are we trying to claim that meeting fatigue is some horrendous epidemic. But neither are we saying that your meetings cannot be improved.
In a survey carried out by collaboration expert West Unified Communications, 86 percent of respondents indicated that they believe meetings are necessary. The same survey, however, found that 44 percent felt they could achieve positive results without attending as many meetings. Moreover, while 43 percent of people were active participants in their meetings when attending less than five per week, only 21 percent participated actively in all their meetings when attending five or more.
In short, the key to better meetings – and to staving off meeting fatigue – involves both quality and quantity. Here are a few steps you can take in that regard.
Don’t Host Meetings Just for the Sake of Doing So
We’ve all had a colleague or two who seem to have a love affair with meetings. They host meetings to discuss their team’s daily plans. They host meetings to talk about minor edits to collaborative projects. They host meetings to talk about upcoming meetings.
In order to avoid being like them, there’s a golden rule you should follow. Never call a meeting for something that can be achieved through simple communication. Before you decide your team needs to sit down and talk, ask yourself the following questions.
- Can this issue be addressed elsewhere? (ie. email, instant messages, one-on-one phone calls, etc.)
- Have we already discussed this matter recently?
- Do we actually have a concrete purpose for this meeting, or are we scheduling it simply because we feel like we’re supposed to?
Put another way, don’t host a meeting without a good reason. Every single meeting you host should have a clear purpose, a clear agenda, and a concrete outcome. Every single meeting you host should cover issues and challenges that cannot be addressed elsewhere.
Be Selective About Who Attends
Similar to how you should avoid hosting meetings that lack a clear purpose, everyone who attends a meeting should be there for a clear reason. If a colleague or employee doesn’t have anything to add to the conversation, then don’t require them to attend. Demonstrate respect for everyone’s time by noting when someone has no reason to attend a meeting.
You aren’t excluding them – you’re acknowledging that they have better things to do.
It’s also important to understand that attendees won’t always be able to physically attend, nor should you expect them to. We live in an era of remote, global work and flexible scheduling. You need to account for that when planning your meetings, incorporating the necessary technology and accounting for the different schedules and timezones of attendees.
Keep Your Meetings Brief
No meeting should last for longer than an hour. Ideally, most should last somewhere between 25 and 50 minutes. We aren’t just pulling these numbers out of the air – they’re from business publication Inc magazine, and based on data pulled from cloud collaboration platform Fuze.
According to Fuze, 26 percent of employees tend to drop out of a business call or online meeting if it runs for longer than 60 minutes, while 11 percent will ditch out if a call lasts longer than 30. It makes sense, honestly. If it takes you more than an hour to cover everything on your meeting agenda, then it means you need to pare down that agenda.
Meetings have a largely undeserved reputation as energy-draining time-wasters. They don’t have to be like that within your own organization. Be smart about how you plan, who you invite, and when you host them. You might be surprised at how they enrich your organization and at how valuable they are to collaboration among your employees.