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'Why your meetings stink- and what to do about them'

The following was adapted from a Harvard Business Review Article Titled ‘Why Your Meetings Stink-and What to Do About it


§ Benefits of Meetings include:

· efficiently bringing together ideas and opinions

· allowing people to do their jobs in a more coordinated and cooperative manner.

· Help individuals form a coherent whole that is more adaptive resilient and self-directing especially in times of crisis.

· Most importantly, they help establish and promote consensus, which fuels collective drive and energy.


§ Unproductive meetings can have negative consequences. Research shows:

· of the 23 hours that executives spend in meetings each week, on average, eight are unproductive

· 90% of people report daydreaming in meetings

· 73% of people report using the time to do other work

§ Cost of unproductive meetings are significant. Estimates to be $30B per year in US.

§ The opportunity cost is steep. Employees are not working on more important, inspiring or revenue-generating tasks. Reduced engagement diminishes performance, innovation, service delivery helping others and teamwork.

· Additionally, the most active attendees are the ones who feel the meetings are the most effective and satisfying, and that is typically the leaders.

· Common complaints on meetings are irrelevant agenda items, overly long, and lack of focus. This leaves attendees disgruntled and disengaged.

Ways to Improve Meetings:

· Self-Observation. Take a few minutes after each meeting to reflect on how it went. Think about attendee behavior, conversational dynamics and content covered.

· Ask yourself, were people distracted? Talking amongst themselves? Who did most of the talking? You? One or two people? Did discussion stray to irrelevant topics? Were new ideas presented?

· Tell attendees you want candid feedback

· Identify your key strengths and weaknesses and come up with a plan for improvement

Focus on Preparation and Facilitation.

Preparation: You owe it to others to prepare for the meeting. Force yourself to make choices. Know why you are meeting and define goals of the meeting. Ask others for their input on items to discuss, which increases relevance, ownership and engagement. If you don’t have any items to discuss, cancel.

Then decide who needs to be there. Only invite the necessary people. Think about the key decision makers, influencers and stakeholders. Communicate with those not invited and keep them in the loop.

You can also invite people only to the parts of the meeting that are pertinent to them.

Focus on Time and place. Change things up to keep people fresh. Move to a new venue, meet in morning instead of afternoon, use different time blocks, change seating arrangements. Try a standing or walking meeting as long as they are kept short


Attendees often feel that meetings are interruptions to their ‘real work’. Therefore, the first task is to promote a sense of presence among attendees. You can do this by greeting people at the door, expressing gratitude for their time, offering snacks, playing music and asking everyone to turn off their phones and laptops.

Begin by telling people the purpose of the meeting. Ask questions to engage others, model active listening, draw out concerns and manage conflicts.

As a leader you will sometimes need to offer your own opinions and directives to move forward, but the key to successful facilitation is understanding that you’re primarily playing a supportive role. There should be genuine give and take with attendees feeling safe and committed to the outcomes.

Techniques to have people participate:

§ Try time allotments for each agenda item

§ Gauge interest in a topic

§ Give people time to reflect during the meeting

Positive changes in meeting can lead to real gains for companies and their employees

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