Meetings. If you’re in the corporate world, you spend a huge amount of time in them. Once you reach a certain level of seniority, you probably run several a week. They’re the bread and butter of office life, something we’re thrown into when we start our corporate careers and that many of us spend a lot of time complaining about. And yet, in many ways, very little thought is given to meetings. It’s rarely a focus of professional training, in spite of the fact that they cost companies billions of dollars in man hours (about £3trn in aggregate in the US each year).
Unfortunately, one of the reasons that meetings often feel frustrating, like a waste of time and often repetitive, is that not many people are that good at running meetings. Did you know that we all have a tendency to overestimate our ability? It’s called illusory superiority, the classic example being that 88% of drivers think they’re better than average. Studies on meetings have found that meeting leaders tend to rate their meetings as much more effective than meeting participants do, which makes it less likely that they’re going to make efforts to improve.
So, how do you know if your meetings are any good? Beyond gathering feedback (which is very important if you regularly run meetings), there are a few telltale signs that your meetings aren’t engaging, energising and effective.
Participants are multi-tasking: you may think this is just rude, but it’s a sign that the content of the meeting isn’t relevant or engaging enough to keep their focus, and that you haven’t set clear meeting rules.
A few voices (including yours) are dominating the conversation: meetings aren’t supposed to be a forum for disseminating information. That can be done via other media. They’re all about interaction amongst all participants. Make a mental note of how much individuals are participating – if there’s a clear imbalance, it may mean you need to work on your facilitation skills.
Your meetings never start or end on time: we’re so used to this happening in corporate life that we barely notice it, but it’s a huge problem. Meetings that start late have been found to have lower quality outputs, and meetings that end late burden attendees with negative stress and frustration that bleeds into the rest of their day. If everyone at your organisation is constantly running late, it’s likely because meetings aren’t being run efficiently.
Meeting effectively is one of the productivity modules we cover in our 6 month training program. It’ll teach you how to plan and run engaging and effective meetings in a way that frees up time across the organisation. Get in touch to find out more, and in the meantime feel free to download our handy Meet Well guide to get you started with running better meetings.