In certain circles, a debate still rages on about virtual vs. hybrid, vs. in-person meetings. Everyone has their opinions about which is more effective and why. However, the question that comes to my mind is how effective are meetings in the first place?
I don’t know about you, but I’ve sat through plenty of meetings where only a handful of people are doing the majority of the talking. As a result, people have tuned out, closed down, and are not on the same page. Because of this all-too-common scenario, one of the frustrations I consistently hear from individuals at various levels within organizations, regardless of the size of the business or its industry, is meeting frustration.
Meetings have been identified as one of the constant frustrations even well before the pandemic. All that the pandemic did was force us into having to meet remotely due to safety reasons. In that moment, many jumped to their video conferencing tool of choice (Zoom, Teams, Webex, etc.) without much thought. So, if you keep doing what you’re doing, you are going to keep getting what you got, which is a whole lot of meeting frustration. Moving to remote only brought the challenge to the forefront or in this case, the screen front with participants literally tuning out by shutting off their cameras and/or going on mute, etc.
According to a University of North Carolina study where 182 senior managers in various industries were surveyed:
Once upon a time, participating in meetings was looked at as a status symbol. However, today, meetings are looked at with dread and as a complete time suck causing employees stress to find the time to actually get their work done. This lack of time to do work is costing organizations billions of dollars each year with a lack of productivity, creativity, collaboration, and engagement which can wind up translating into safety and quality issues, time loss, sick time, and eventual turnover due to increased levels of stress and burnout.
Meeting Bloat and Frustration
When it comes to stress in relationship to meetings, there are several things to consider:
During the height of the pandemic, many organizations made a deliberate effort to push out information to their employees. Because information was constantly changing, some organizations began holding daily meetings with their entire workforce to make sure everyone was receiving necessary communication immediately. This effort helped to alleviate some of the fear and anxiety of staff. However once things started to level out and become more manageable, the meetings continued. Why?
In a recent article by Forbes magazine, some organizations are making it part of their process to evaluate the need for meetings. According to the article,
Open-source software platform GitLab has annual “meeting cleanup” days to reset which recurring meetings are needed, and some teams have “async weeks” with greatly reduced meeting time. Software firm Asana conducted experiments this spring using a process they call “meeting doomsday.” It involves having workers review which standing meetings are valuable and then scheduling a time to delete them all, only adding back the valuable ones after considering how often they need to happen and who really needs to attend.
And Slack said in June it had not only added “Focus Fridays”—a practice many companies, including HP, have used to ban internal meetings on certain days—but “Maker Weeks” twice each quarter. During those weeks, all internal recurring meetings are canceled, offering not only more time to focus but a “reset” to review which meetings still matter.
“It’s basically a ‘kill all the recurring meetings’” exercise for a week before adding back the necessary ones, says Brian Elliott, a senior vice president at Slack who leads its “digital first” task force. Executives at Slack call the process “calendar bankruptcy.” “This [meeting] used to be eight people. Now it’s 25 people. Can’t we scale it back?”
The other thing to consider with regards to meetings is:
Most meetings are not effectively managed or facilitated. In the same Forbes article, the North America managing director for HP, Stephanie Dismore stated, “I tell my team ‘No objective, no attendance.’ “She says, if there’s not a clear goal, “I just decline the meeting. If it’s important, it’ll get back on my calendar with an objective at some point.”
The 5 Ps of Effective Meetings
To help create more effective meetings, think about the “5 P’s”:
By considering the 5P’s, meetings will be better prepared and run more smoothly. For participants, if any of the 5P’s are missing, be sure to ask the meeting coordinator for the missing information ahead of time. You will be doing everyone a favor. Help others consider this information when they are requesting meetings to develop the habit of running better meetings within your organization.
Frustration is part of life but if we can help cut out some of the unnecessary frustrations that occur in our life created by ineffective meetings, the question is why not?