You know the feeling. You’re sitting in a meeting, watching the clock, and before you know it, the conversation goes sideways. You ask yourself, “Why am I even here? Why are any of us here?”
Your mind wanders to the multitude of tasks that you’d rather be dealing with. Finally, the meeting ends and your real work begins. You start crossing off items on your to-do list, and then—
Bam. The calendar notification of doom: time for the next meeting.
How did we get to this point? Why are we up to our eyeballs in meetings?
Some argue that the pandemic created our current avalanche of meetings—and they’re not completely wrong. Since 2020, companies have gone from holding 40 to 66 million daily meetings in the U.S. alone. And given the meteoric rise of remote and hybrid work, the amount is sure to increase.
But that’s not the full story. The phrase “this should’ve been an email” made its way into our lexicon long before the pandemic. The truth is that we never mastered meetings. The pandemic accelerated the issue, and now we’re finally facing the consequences of our haphazard meeting culture.
We need smart meetings, and we need them now. It’s time to stop the meeting mayhem.
Meeting Mayhem by the Numbers
The data doesn’t lie: our meetings are broken. Like, really broken.
We waste a whopping 24 billion hours each year due to unproductive meetings. The majority of professionals now spend up to a third of their workweek stuck in meetings.
And the financial costs? They’re devastating. U.S. businesses reportedly lose a grand total of $37 billion a year due to unnecessary meetings. Bad meetings mean bad news for businesses.
Unsurprisingly, the general consensus is that meetings suck. Working professionals ranked having too many meetings as the biggest workplace distraction. Research shows that 90% of people daydream in meetings, and 73% use meeting time to get other work done. To make matters worse, 75% of people haven’t even received training on how to conduct a meeting.
If all of that wasn’t bad enough, there’s now a term for the negative effects of meetings: “meeting recovery syndrome.” This phenomenon refers to the feelings of fatigue and frustration that arise from a bad meeting.
“No Meeting Monday” Won’t Save You
To mitigate the onslaught of meetings, companies resorted to establishing “No Meetings” days. Blocking off days for uninterrupted heads-down work sounds great in theory. But in practice, workers end up with back-to-back meetings the following day to make up for their singular day of meeting-free bliss.
Eliminating meetings isn’t the best way forward. After all, there’s a reason why people hold meetings. Meetings can be extraordinary; they’re where collaboration moves mountains, and where big ideas find their legs. With less than one-third of knowledge workers coming to the office each day, meetings offer one of the only opportunities for coworkers to connect face to face.
Meetings aren’t the problem. The problem is how we conduct them. Instead of getting rid of meetings, the solution lies in making meetings smarter. So—how do we do that?
Fundamentals of Smart Meetings
The hallmark of a smart meeting is if a meeting is attended by the right people, at the right time, in the right place for a clear goal. Attendees of these meetings make bigger accomplishments and more meaningful progress than ever before. And, most importantly, smart meetings cultivate the type of genuine relationships among attendees that no other form of communication can replicate.
Luckily, you don’t have to create smarter meetings on your own. A Meeting Optimization Engine handles the entire coordination, relationship building, and insights gathering process to make smart meetings come to life.
Let’s dig into the three foundational elements of smart meetings:
The Right Attendees
Meetings are breeding grounds for collaboration and connection. And in the distance economy, where 98% of today’s meetings reportedly include at least one remote attendee, meetings stand as optimal spaces to form bonds in the absence of physical interaction.
However, problems arise when meetings don’t include the right key players. When the wrong people are placed in meetings, frustration builds, which erodes any sense of community within a team.
That’s why smart meetings include the most suitable attendees. When the right people join forces, teams accelerate towards their goals and meaningful relationships blossom.
The Right Time and Place
Smart meetings are “smart” from the get-go, and that means before any meeting even takes place. Coordinating a smart meeting involves identifying the optimal time and place for all attendees to connect. Smart meetings should work for everyone’s calendar.
Overall, the time and place of your meetings should be conducive to productivity and success. If a meeting takes place too frequently, or not frequently enough, it isn’t smart. Likewise, if a meeting’s presence just takes up space on a calendar, it’s not a smart meeting—it’s a time sink.
Achieves a Clear Goal
If you aren’t meeting to achieve a clear goal, ask yourself why you’re even meeting. Your meetings need to be purposeful. The goals of your meetings should be clearly defined, and all attendees should be firmly aligned on what they must achieve.
Each and every meeting should move your team closer to your pre-defined goals. If your meetings don’t generate progress, they must be reengineered.
More on Smart Meetings
Okay, so we’ve laid down the fundamentals of smart meetings. Ready to dive even deeper?
From meticulously crafting meeting agendas, to thoughtfully selecting the best meeting structure, making your meetings smart is a fine art. Here are several elements to consider when crafting your meetings.
The Perfect Meeting Agenda
Far too often, meeting organizers come with an agenda that’s just a list of topics. Even though there’s likely several crucial topics that you want to cover in your meetings, agendas that are just bullets after bullets of topics set your meetings up for failure.
The most purposeful agendas include specific, pre-defined questions for attendees to discuss and answer. Starting meetings with the knowledge of exactly what you must resolve gives them a strategic edge.
Even better, narrowing your agenda topics into questions promotes meeting efficiency. Starting meetings with topics to discuss opens the door for irrelevant conversations that don’t get to the heart of the issue. But when you start meetings with questions, attendees know exactly what they’re there to hash out.
Aside from fine-tuning the content of your agenda, make sure that you’re practicing proper agenda etiquette. Share the agenda with attendees well in advance, always include the agenda in the meeting invitations, and hold yourself to following the agenda’s main points.
All in all, now isn’t the time to just “wing it.” Use your meeting agenda as your road map to delivering smarter meetings.
Selecting the Meeting Structure
There’s plenty of useful meeting structures out there to leverage—when they’re appropriate. When choosing the right structure, consider several factors: the purpose, the attendees, and the group size.
For quick status reports, consider holding daily team huddles. These meetings are normally 10 or 15 minutes. They keep your team aligned throughout the week on their priorities. Attendees provide updates and talk through any obstacles. The brevity of these meetings provides teams with ample time to execute on high-value tasks.
Have a crucial project or campaign that’s in the works? A weekly campaign planning meeting can be a productive time for all of the campaign’s stakeholders to talk through the goals for the weeks ahead, what’s in progress and what still needs to be kicked off, and any roadblocks. However, stay vigilant on the importance of this meeting each week. Some weeks of a campaign may be smooth sailing, with nothing significant to discuss.
If you feel like your projects tend to remain stagnant, it may be time to establish Level 10 (L10) meetings. An L10 is a weekly meeting that takes place at the same time and same day each week. It’s recommended for these meetings to last around 90 minutes, yet the length will depend on your team’s needs. Dedicate the bulk of each L10 to discussing any outstanding priorities.
Know When To Say No
Say it with us: not everything needs to be a meeting. Some meetings are just emails in disguise. In order to truly live by the smart meeting code, learn how to sniff out unnecessary meetings.
Useless meetings come with common red flags. If a meeting doesn’t include even a loose agenda, it’s time to start asking questions. And just because a certain weekly meeting has always taken place on your team, doesn’t mean that it’s needed. Have these conversations moved your team closer to a goal? How has your team progressed thanks to these meetings?
Don’t be afraid to question a meeting’s purpose, or if the meeting needs to occur at all. Your entire team will be better off without these questionable meetings. Ask what’s the desired outcome, or question if the frequency of a meeting is necessary, if applicable.
Maybe a meeting feels necessary for certain members to attend, but not you. Be direct—ask the organizer what value you would add, or why your attendance is important.
Making Every Minute Count
For years, we’ve made attending useless meetings a punchline for office jokes. We bond over these jokes because we all know the feeling of counting down the minutes for a meeting to end. Yet the consequences of wasting precious time in inefficient meetings are no laughing matter.
Every once in a while, we attend a meeting that reminds us of how powerful meetings can be. We connect with our teammates, smash through roadblocks, and can practically taste how close we are to attaining our goals. But then this meeting passes by, and we’re back to facing the aimless meetings that we’re accustomed to.
Imagine if every single minute spent in meetings actually mattered. To create this reality, meetings just need a fresh, new approach.
Together, we can stop the meeting mayhem—but only if we make meetings smarter.