Do meetings play an important role in a company? According to Al Pittampalli, author and expert on meetings, “Meetings are the lifeblood of the organization. They’re the place where we make the most important decisions, express the most important matters of the day.” But he admits that meetings can be a huge waste of time and that it spreads out responsibility so that critical decisions tend to be put off.
Is the meeting necessary? This is the very first question to ask. Employees’ schedules are jam packed and meetings are expensive for the company. So before planning a meeting, ask yourself:
If you are invited to a meeting, consider whether you are able to contribute to the meeting and have an active role. If not, excuse yourself from the meeting, if that is possible.
Would you believe that the people leading the meetings are often the biggest hindrance? Most meetings are not run well, although the people running them would be surprised to know that participants are not happy. Letting your boss know that he/she is doing a poor job handling the meeting probably would not go over well. So, forget that strategy unless you have a very open-minded boss.
How much time do employees spend in meetings? If meetings took a small amount of time, then perhaps, just maybe, the time inefficiencies could be overlooked. But that is hardly the case – meetings are a huge chunk of many days. Senior executives spend over half of their time in meetings (an average 28 hours per week!). Middle managers also do not fare well, devoting over 40% of a 50-hour work week sitting in meetings for 21 hours weekly. A British study of 1,000 employees concluded that employees considered more than half of that time wasted and that meetings are their biggest time waster.
What is the ideal number of people attending a meeting? Six or less according to the Wharton School of Business. More than that and productivity per person declines. Often cliques and sub-teams with their own agendas form and some people find it easy to coast. For a small project, two or three people can often accomplish the job.
What days are good to hold meetings? Not Monday (too soon after the weekend and people are still recuperating) and definitely not Friday (too close to the upcoming weekend). That leaves Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday – all good days. Another plus is that there is time for follow up from the meeting.
What times are best to hold a meeting? Energy levels are at their best between 10 and noon. Not recommended: first thing in the morning when people are just arriving at the office. They may need to plan out the day, finish a project from yesterday or complete a task right away. In the late afternoon people are tired and ready to go home.
What types of meetings are best? Collaboration is highest when people are face-to-face either in the same room talking and looking at one another or standing up. On your feet meetings work particularly well because attendees are focused on the issues and eager for the meeting to be over so they can sit back down. Phone and teleconference meetings may be necessary particularly when distance is an issue. Email meetings are not advised.
As meeting expert Al Pittampalli points out, meetings can serve an important purpose. The next time you call a meeting to work on a project remember to …
… Plan the meeting without your boss (if possible)
… Invite 6 or fewer people
… Reserve a conference room for a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday
… Call the meeting for 10 or 11am
… And keep the meeting under an hour