5 Things You Should Ask Yourself Before an Important Meeting

Meetings Drain Productivity, Sap Engagement

A majority of professionals indicate that most meetings are a waste of time or suffocate productivity and morale. Size of the organizations involved doesn’t matter. Research shows that of the 23 hours that executives spend in meetings each week, an average of eight are unproductive. Attendee focus remains fleeting: 90% say they day dream in meetings, while 73% admit they use meeting time to do other work.

Blame for these problems seems obvious—namely, professionals don’t know how to conduct good meetings. However, most business leaders rate their own meetings quite positively—significantly more favorably than the assessment of attendees. Research reveals part of the problem; meeting attendees who are more active tend to give meetings higher marks, whereas less active attendees provide lower marks.

Top reasons attendees cite as the cause for unproductive meetings include irrelevant agenda items, overly long durations, and lack of focus. Wasted time alone adds up to more than $30 billion a year in the United States, and this doesn’t include opportunity costs—that is, time attendees aren’t working on more important, revenue-generating tasks. There are intangible effects as well, such as diminished innovation and team work. One study finds the effects of a bad meeting can linger for hours—which it dubs “meeting recovery syndrome.”

When these problems with meetings are pointed out, the gut reaction of many is to go on a quest to eliminate most, if not all, meetings. While some meetings could likely be eliminated, a no-meetings policy is unrealistic and counterproductive. Meetings enable teams to share status and to collaborate. They afford individuals a chance to connect with other team members and to adapt and adjust to changes and challenges. Meetings also build consensus within teams and across teams.

5 Principles for Meeting Preparation

So, where does this leave us? Most meetings are important and eliminating them is not an answer to the problem. However, too many meetings are subpar, draining valuable productivity and wasting valuable time. With this in purview, one would assume that many organizations would have dedicated training programs on leading and participation in effective meetings. But three-quarters of professionals admit they have received no formal training in how to conduct or prepare for meetings.

The best way forward in addressing the meeting problem is for business leaders need to take ownership. Adhering to the following five principles when preparing for an important meeting will enable business leaders to ensure their meetings are successful.

1. Know your meeting type.

There are different types of meetings and how you approach and prepare for each one is different. Possible meeting types include:

  • Status update
  • Information sharing
  • Decision making
  • Problem solving
  • Innovation
  • Team building

2. Identify the right participants.

While many employees complain about needing to attend too many meetings, they also will become frustrated and twisted out of shape if they are excluded from them. It is best to educate teams on a new meeting approach that whittles the number of meeting attendees. Using a model such as RACI/DACI (responsible/decision maker, approver, contributor, informed) is a good way to determine who needs to attend a meeting as well as to establish their responsibilities beforehand.

3. Create and communicate the purpose and agenda.

Failing to create and communicate the purpose of a meeting and its agenda beforehand sets the stage for an unproductive or failed meeting before it takes place. Attendees appreciate knowing the meeting objective and agenda and will be more likely to prepare for the meeting beforehand

4. Find and select the right meeting location.

The location for a meeting is critical and determine the success or failure of a meeting. The wrong meeting location can doom a meeting to failure before it even begins. For small businesses without a permanent office, they must look at rented meeting space. Coffee shops are terrible places for meetings; they are unprofessional, noisy, and lack privacy. Hotel meeting space is expensive—upwards of twice as much as rented meeting space such as Davinci Meeting Rooms.

Even for businesses with a permanent office with meeting space, that meeting space isn’t always the best fit for every meeting. Sometimes, more professional space that comes with a lobby greeter, digital presentation tools, video and audio conferencing capabilities, and business services such as catering is needed. All of these factors should be considered when selecting a meeting location. Of course, for business meetings that take place in locations outside the perimeter of the organization’s permanent office location(s), rented meeting space is a requisite.

5. Determine meeting logistics.

Planning logistics ahead of a meeting is important. These include actions such as identifying moderators, secretaries, and timekeepers and planning meals and refreshments (and their time), among other logistical responsibilities. Part of the undertaking here is to select individual roles based on their strengths or even to provide team members with development opportunities. It is also important to make sure you avoid procrastinating and leaving decisions to the last minute, something psychologists attribute to one of the causes for bad meetings.


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