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Six Reasons Why Your Business Meetings Are Not Productive

Business meetings - most employees dread them, yet they are an essential part of the business world. Many expected that technological advances like videocalling or teleconferencing would to improve the situation, but the truth is that the average office worker still spends too much of their time in meetings, which are considered the biggest time wasters of office life. Recent statistics show that the average US worker still spends more than 5 hours a week in meetings, plus another 4 hours preparing for them. In the case of managers, the figures go up to 12 hours a week.

The problem isn’t only that we spend too much time in meetings, but also that they’re not effective. One of the main reasons why meetings are disliked is because they are generally perceived as unproductive. And this is more than just an opinion, as there is a wealth of data that confirms that most businesses aren’t maximizing the time allocated to meetings:  37 percent of business meetings are labeled as unproductive, and nearly 40 percent of employees admit to having dozed off during a meeting.

So why are your business meetings unproductive? In this article we explore the top 6 reasons, as well as what can you do to change that.

1. The Hour-Long Meeting

The hour long meeting seems to be a standard in the corporate world, but many meetings could be done in half the time. Not every meeting needs to last the same amount of time, and in fact, a meeting can be as short (or as long) as you need it to be.

What you can do: Start by reducing the anticipated meeting duration by 5 to 10 percent, and adjust from there. Organizational experts suggest that meeting time can be cut down by 75 percent.

2. The Meeting’s Purpose is Vaguely Described

Choice of words matters in meetings whose purpose is decision making. If the meeting’s purpose is described in the invitation as anything like “discuss” or “review”, they will unnecessarily drag out. More likely than not, attendees will leave the meeting without having even come close to making a decision, and another meeting will have to be scheduled.

What you can do: Be specific. Before sending the invitation, make sure the purpose of meeting is clear. Once at the meeting, stick to that purpose and ensure every contribution does something to achieve it.

3. Time Management

If meetings are consistently running too long, it may be because you have created a precedent. We’re creatures of habit, so if the meeting organizer is in the habit of letting meetings start late or extend beyond the scheduled time, this will come to be seen as the norm and timing will not be respected.

What you can do: the meeting facilitator must have outstanding time management skills. Invest in workshops or training if necessary.

4. Too Many attendees, Or Not Enough

Only staff members who are critical to the meeting’s objective should attend. And managers don’t need to be present in every single meeting either!

What you can do: Don’t base meeting invitations on organizational hierarchy, or at least not exclusively. If in doubt, delegate.

5. Constant Interruptions

Cell phones ringing, people texting whether openly or surreptitiously, participants bringing work to the meeting, they all have same result: meetings are constantly derailed, take longer, and are frustrating.

What you can do: Set rules and circulate them among attendees. Some companies have a no-laptop, no-cell phone policy during their meetings, but ultimately you will have to decide by yourself if you can afford to make exceptions or not. Otherwise, you’d be setting a precedent, with the negative effects we have already discussed in point 3.

6. Physical Barriers

Meeting room layout may be limiting participation and contribute to unproductive meetings. This has gone unnoticed for some time even in large corporations. For example, executives at Pixar took some time to realize that an oval table at their main meeting room favored a hierarchy-based seating layout, and that was stifling creativity and hindering contributions from other attendees.

What you can do: Examine the room’s layout and make sure is consistent with the company’s approach to meetings and participation.

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