Productive Meetings That Take Half The Time & Make Twice The Impact [Part 2]

Alexia MacPherson

Nov 7, 2020 2:00:00 PM

   

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This is the second part of a two-part series. In this article, we will cover how to run productive meetings and ensure you get results and the outcome you want.

The first part covers everything you need to prepare beforehand to ensure an effective meeting. Read it here.

Over the last few months, we’ve all noticed, especially with working from home, that the number of meetings held has exponentially increased due to the need for better communication and cohesiveness amongst the team.

The concept? Brilliant. The execution? Not so much.

I’ve heard from peers alike that despite having more meetings, there have been no changes to productivity levels or improvements in communication. Instead, the increase in meetings has had an adverse effect.

Meetings have become an unnecessary hindrance to our time, energy and morale as compared to helping us be more productive and efficient at work. And they don’t have to be…

The True Cost Of Meetings – And Why It Matters…

Then begs the question, what is the real cost of meetings? Three simple things; time, money and an emotional cost. All of which have an impact on productivity and morale.

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Let’s take a look at the numbers… A meeting traditionally lasts an hour. But let’s be honest; an hour is never just an hour. This does not include the time needed to prepare or follow up for each meeting.

A Forbes article shared that executives can spend upwards of 23 hours per week in meetings.

In the United States alone, unproductive meetings are said to cost a staggering $37 billion annually for businesses.

We were curious to understand what these numbers looked like locally, so we surveyed hundreds of sales professionals in Asia Pacific.

The average sales professional attends 16 meetings per week. In addition to this, the results showed they spend on average 4 hours a week preparing for their own meetings, and up to 6 hours a week of follow up with their customers, managers or colleagues.

We used an average salary of $50 per hour, which results in $3,200 per month spent in meetings, with an additional $2,000 spent doing meeting preparation and follow up.

These numbers may not sound like they’re a big deal, but when you think the average working week is 40 hours, this means the average salesperson spends 65% of their time in meetings.

But salespeople should spend most of their time in meetings, right?

Absolutely! But they need to be able to correlate these numbers with delivering results. Their jobs are to build relationships and grow the business.

And to that point, what was even more frightening is that the respondents we interviewed called out, a mammoth 64% of the meetings they attend as being poorly organised or a waste of time.

To help us calculate the impact to the organisation, we also asked how big these sales teams were.Given the average sales team was 10 people, these numbers illustrate that on average bad meetings cost organizations $416,000 a year. The scariest part? These numbers are only for their sales team.

Imagine what the data would tell us, if you start doing this exercise across different roles, departments and the additional internal meetings these same salespeople attend. But that’s a story for another day…

Although the total hours spent varies across different companies and roles, a common trend is that these salespeople end up feeling like they need to work overtime to compensate for the time meetings take away from doing their actual job.

As a result? They often find themselves feeling emotionally drained and overwhelmed, given the outstanding tasks they need to complete after wasting their time in an unproductive meeting.

On top of this, they have targets to reach, and a salesperson measures their success by the number of deals they close, and the amount of commission they take home. All of which adds additional stress, which doesn’t have to be the case.

Meetings, when executed correctly, are an invaluable mechanism to drive business improvement, shape culture, share ideas and generally drive better outcomes for the business – but they must be productive and efficient, otherwise they do more harm than good.

We’ve started reviewing the data we have collected and discovering many interesting insights, and are excited to share more with you in the coming weeks, so stay tuned!

Start On Time. End On Time.

Sadly, it is all too common to see a meeting start later than the scheduled time. People trickle into the room, or join your virtual meeting, one by one, a few minutes late.

Some sneak in quietly and sit at the back of the room while the virtual latecomers mute their audio and turn their video off. While others make it well known they have arrived, regardless of the medium.

Not only is this disruptive, but oftentimes, the host of the meeting feels the need to give a quick update for the latecomers, something I have been guilty of on occasions myself! This results in the people who arrived early or on time being forced to listen to the same updates on repeat, like the discman I had in high school that would bounce with every step I took. Great for learning lyrics of songs, not so great for my productivity at work.

The ironic part of this, is some of those latecomers are victims of the dreaded ‘back to backs’, and once one meeting in the day goes over the allotted time, the knock on effect is detrimental to you and everyone else around you.

We’ve all been there. Some of us are still living this nightmare.

So what’s the answer?

In part 1 of this series, I spoke about changing our behaviour and practice driving shorter meetings. By doing this, you will set the expectation that you value the time of your attendees, and they will naturally be more motivated, and excited, to come to your meetings on time. Especially when they end on time as well.

If we can champion this change of behaviour throughout the organisation, perhaps that might be the end of those back to backs, once and for all!

That emotional cost I spoke about earlier has a huge impact in the workplace. Suffering from meeting fatigue and a never-ending to do list, is something we can all relate to. We often forget that the impact to our motivation and morale is huge and affects our productivity.

I also spoke about the criticality of having an agenda. If you don’t have an agenda? Then there shouldn’t be a meeting!

These simple steps allow us to stay on point, stick to the allotted time and foster a better meeting culture in the workplace. All of which will ensure you start having successful and productive meetings.

Starting a meeting on time reinforces a sense of urgency. As mentioned in part one of my article Parkinson's law states that "work will expand to fill the time available for its completion."

Whether 30 minutes or an hour is allocated to reach your goals, the outcome will likely be the same.. If everyone knows that a meeting will end on time, they are more likely to focus and do what needs to be done, which benefits everyone.

Eliminate Distractions

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An astounding 92% of meetings participants admitted to multitasking during a meeting. Whether it is responding to emails, scrolling through social media or doing other work during the meeting.

I'm sure during the meetings you've recently attended, you've done this too. I’d be lying if I told you that I haven’t!

Meeting fatigue is one of the main reasons people feel like there is no actual value to focus and pay complete attention during meetings.

On top of this, 43% of respondents we surveyed said they didn’t pay attention because they didn’t think they could contribute, while 64% said the majority of the meetings they attend are poorly organised and a waste of their time.

Thus begins the vicious cycle of unfocused and unproductive meetings, needing more meetings to keep everyone working towards organisational objectives.

In Part I of this series, I emphasised the importance of inviting a small yet essential group of people and being mindful about making your meetings more inclusive.

Feeling like you are adding value to innovating new ideas or making big decisions is a powerful thing, and something so often overlooked.

If people join your meetings and expect to contribute to great things, they’ll put their phone down or close their emails, believe me.

By incorporating these guidelines, while assessing whether the meeting should in fact be a meeting, you will naturally start having more productive and efficient meetings, and your attendees will thank you for it.

Keep The Meeting On Topic

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Too often, discussions drift and then degrade to a swirl of opinions, ideas, facts, and emotions. Assign someone to track the agenda of the meeting and inform everyone in attendance that this individual will interject if and when the discussion veers off topic or specific item of discussion.

This is an excellent way to keep everyone on topic and is extremely helpful in strengthening the effectiveness and productivity of your meetings.

As with any discussions, additional topics may come up and be important to discuss. This is great! It means your meetings are fostering new ideas and you’re innovating.. But when they do, they should be noted and placed in the "parking lot" for future consideration and discussion to ensure you stay on topic.

There are times for ideas and there are times for action.

Keep And Distribute Meeting Notes

How many times have you attended a meeting where you wrote notes ‘somewhere’. You know you took them, but you literally cannot find them. You ultimately end up wasting time searching through multiple applications trying to locate them. The struggle is real.

Notes should be intuitive and easy to find and manage. It’s critical that you do this during the meeting to ensure you capture the discussion and note the actions.

Meeting notes serve as a reminder and a source of information for participants, stakeholders and those that missed the meeting. They should be leveraged to remind teams of their follow-up actions, ownership, and deadlines.

According to Fast Company, "Meetings are often where hard decisions are made, where innovative ideas are shared, and where important deals are done."

Other than engagement, you have the added benefit of walking out of the meeting with an action plan to solve a problem.

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Follow-Up & Follow Through

At the end of every meeting, ask yourself whether you achieved your meeting goals, and have a clear action plan to realise your outcomes.

It is critical to let your attendees know what the steps to be taken next and assign responsibility to them, including a timeframe to deliver.

Accountability is key - including your own. Strengthen your credibility by doing what you said you were going to do.

This summary and information should be shared with attendees straight after the meeting to keep the momentum going.. It allows everyone to plan and prepare for the next meeting, to continue riding that wave of productive meetings.

At the core of Steve Job's mentality was the "accountability mindset" meaning that processes were put in place, so everybody knew who was responsible for what.

This ensures the work is done, timelines are met, and most importantly that your meeting was efficient and productive.

Conclusion

Meetings are one of the biggest factors in business that kills productivity. This problem is ubiquitous and leads to huge and unintentional revenue losses for businesses.

messeji is specifically designed to help you prepare and drive more effective meetings, while automating and tracking follow up tasks to keep you organised and ensure you have better outcomes.

Topics: Sales, Authors