Meetings are one of productivity’s biggest killers, zapping time and taking people away from core tasks. Preparing for meetings, having meetings about meetings, attending the ‘big’ meeting and debriefing about the meeting that just took place – no wonder many workers are searching for a more effective way to discuss in a group setting.
It has become such an issue that a governance technology firm, eShare, set out to quantify just how much time was spent and money wasted on meetings. It surveyed 1,000 office workers across the UK and found an average employee spends 10 hours and 42 minutes each week preparing for and attending 4.4 meetings, with 2.6 of those deemed unnecessary. This is estimated to cost the UK’s 5.4 million businesses about £191 billion a year.
At the extreme end of the spectrum is Elon Musk’s advice – including walking out of meetings when they waste your time and opting out of large meetings – but at Bond Williams, we prefer the more rational tips below:
Only invite the essential people – if your aim is to cut down the duration of meetings – which average at 1 hour and 19 minutes, with an extra 1 hour 8 minutes for pre-meeting prep – consider inviting a reduced number of attendees and keep others in the loop by circulating the minutes.
Use one-to-ones and emails – many matters can be discussed and decisions made without a huge gathering, so go directly to the person you need or communicate via email. Any resolutions or opinions can be fed to the person who called the meeting and reported without the need for a drawn-out process.
Always circulate an agenda – the most focused meetings have an agenda and it works best if this is circulated beforehand, giving attendees the chance to add their own points. Sticking to the agenda will avoid long meetings full of small asides, tangents and unrelated points. If the meeting is a follow up, it can also be helpful to use the previous set of minutes as an agenda but leave time for an ‘any other business’ conclusion.
Set a timer – it can be helpful to set a duration for the meeting before it begins – say one hour – and cross reference the agenda against the clock to stop it from overrunning. Anything not covered can be addressed using the communication methods in point 2.
Call a stand up meeting – Stanford Business School held a study with 56 work teams who had stand-up meetings vs. 55 groups holding seated meetings. In the stand-up meetings, groups took 34% less time making decisions, with no real difference in the quality of the decision.
Hold a walking meeting – from Steve Jobs to Sigmund Freud, many iconic figures have favoured walking meetings for their ability to focus the mind and communicate more clearly. It’s all down to increased oxygen and better blood flow – and perhaps shortness of breath – that prompts people to cut to the chase and stop rambling.
Take notes – Richard Branson once said that he was surprised that he was the only person taking notes in meetings he attended. Always go prepared with a notebook and pen so you can record key findings, action points and deadlines. These can be quickly consolidated into a ‘to do’ list before anything is forgotten.
Make minutes matter – before any meeting begins, ensure you agree that somebody will minute the meeting and circulate the notes as soon as possible. It’s important for the minutes to reflect what is expected of people and who has been assigned tasks – it’s a great way to ensure work gets done and accountability is created.
Senior Recruitment Consultant
Having already enjoyed a successful 10-year career as an REC CertRP qualified recruitment consultant in Oxford, Ben has a wealth of local job market knowledge and insight into the Engineering, Science and Space sector. He specialises in sourcing qualified and skilled candidates for engineering roles and high technology businesses on …