We have to stop meeting like this!

Brittany LaPointe \
April 17, 2015
Guest Post
By: Beth Winter
If the mere mention of having a meeting results in a collective groan, it’s a clear message that your meetings are not as productive as they could be.  You’re not alone.
The Annenberg School of Communications at UCLA and the University of Minnesota’s Training & Development Research Center completed studies that showed executives spend an average of 40-50% of their working hours in meetings and believe that as much as 50% of meeting time is unproductive.  Consider that in light of a University of Arizona teamwork study that estimates 17 million meetings are held on the average day in the United States – more than 3 billion meetings per year.
Why are meetings unproductive?  The most frequently cited reasons are:
  • The meeting is disorganized and poorly run
  • Lack of a detailed agenda
  • Not starting and/or stopping the meeting on time
  • Goals are not established so the group is unsure whether anything was accomplished
  • Decision makers aren’t present
  • People with no real stake in the outcome are present
Making your meetings more productive is not only practical, saving time and money, but necessary to ensure the best results.  There are many things you can do to make your meetings more productive and planning is an important first step.  Consider the following:
  1. Is a meeting necessary?  Too often, meetings are held simply because they’re regularly scheduled. Instead, determine if there’s a need to bring people together.  If not, cancel the meeting.  Short term, you’ve just given everyone the gift of time.  Long term, the knowledge that meetings are purposeful may result in increased attendance and engagement.
  2. What is the purpose of the meeting? What are your objectives?  What do you want to accomplish and how will you know if you’ve been successful? Make the purpose and objectives clear on the agenda, and issue the agenda at least several days in advance so participants can prepare as needed.
  3. Who should be present?  Carefully determine who should attend each meeting regardless of whether or not the individual is part of a given group.  Instead consider who has information or perspective important for decision-making, a stake in the topic being considered, or will be materially affected by the outcome.
There is much more you can do to improve your meetings.  One participant who attended BVU’s Mastering Effective Meetings workshop noted that their monthly meetings were reduced from three hours to one hour.  Imagine what you could do with that extra time!
Beth Winter is the regional vice president of BVU: The Center for Nonprofit Excellence and leads the BVU office in Akron. Learn more here