Today’s modern workplaces function around open, rapid, and efficient communication, with meetings facilitating this communication. Meetings are forums to move the work of the organization forward.
Meetings help coordinate work between teams, individuals, managers, and decision-makers by obtaining status updates, brainstorming ideas, business planning, and the promulgation of decisions and instructions.
Meetings are, thus, an integral part of the functioning of any organization. However, they need to be properly organized, carefully conducted, and meticulously followed to derive the maximum benefit.
Bad Meetings Are Costly Affairs
Running efficient meetings is an essential skill in a leader. While it seems like a straightforward task, most meetings end up being run inefficiently due to poor planning and a lack of organization.
According to a study published in the European Journal of Work & Organisation Psychology, inefficient meetings cost American businesses up to USD 37 Billion annually. Another report published in the HR Digest estimates that professionals lose approximately 31 hours of productive time on monthly meetings.
Considering the high cost of inefficient meetings, the question that business leaders need to be asking themselves is — how to improve team meetings?
Although there are no easy answers, some proven strategies improve meeting effectiveness and bring about effective team communication.
Reasons Meetings are Inefficient & What Can Be Done to Fix It?
Several factors can derail the success of a business meeting. Read on to learn how you can improve meeting efficiency by eliminating some common causes of ineffective meetings.
Improper Opening & Inadequate Preparation
The chairperson should open the meeting by laying out the background, an overview of the meeting’s agenda, desired outcomes, the meeting end time, and then kick-start the meeting by opening the first agenda item for discussion.
Also, participants coming to the meeting without adequate preparation leads to lower than the desired outcome from the meeting. Occasionally, this is because the meeting agenda is not communicated to the participants sufficiently in advance.
This can be overcome by avoiding unplanned meetings (barring emergencies), communicating complete information about the meeting’s agenda and the expected goals and outcomes well before the meeting date to enable required preparation by the participants.
Lack of Focus & Excess Attendees
The chairperson should maintain order in the meeting, allow participants to express their opinions freely, ensure that the discussions are crisp and that the participants do not ramble, insist that the circulated agenda points are strictly adhered to, and the scheduled timelines for the meeting are broadly kept.
As a general rule, the larger a team, the greater the difficulty in managing it. This is equally true for meetings. Invitations to meetings should strictly be restricted to essential participants only. Hangers-on should be disallowed.
More people in a meeting leads to unnecessary discussions and distractions – making it difficult to arrive at decisions. Discipline in minimizing the number of attendees in a meeting is a key aspect determining how meetings can be improved.
Poor Organisational Culture
The organization should foster culture through relevant training that no one should intrude during a meeting. Prior training on good meeting etiquette to improve meeting efficiency ensures that all follow basic norms such as switching off mobile phones and laptops.
Absenteeism in meetings – another sign of poor organizational culture occurs due to a lack of coordination with the participants to schedule the meeting at a mutually convenient time. Adequate advance notice must be given, and it is also essential to follow up through reminders.
Absenteeism of key participants defeats the purpose of the meeting, requiring reconvening of the meeting leading to an avoidable waste of time and effort of all the participants.
The chairperson needs to ensure that the meetings end on time. At the end of the meeting, the chairperson should review actions and assignments. To keep the momentum going, the date/time of the next meeting may also be announced.
An essential aspect of ‘closing the loop’ in meetings, is for the designated ‘Meeting Secretary’ to maintain a detailed record of the discussions and record decisions taken and any deadlines specified. After the meeting, the minutes of the meeting should be circulated to all the participants.
The entire purpose of the meeting is defeated if there is no follow-up on the actions and deadlines agreed upon. Therefore, it is equally the responsibility of the participants to provide feedback on the progress/status of their respective tasks, as it is of the coordinating secretary to also follow up to ensure timely completion of the tasks.
With a little planning, meetings can be transformed from being perceived as a wasteful part of working life to being an effective tool facilitating enhanced productivity by easing communication and task delegation.
Every team and organization is different. Therefore, the success of any suggested approach to improve the efficiency of meetings requires you to adapt the said measures suitably best to fit your team, context, and organizational culture.