Less is more

There are meetings that can drain even the most energetic employees. Studies show that time in meetings is not always spent productively, whether due to notorious latecomers, poor preparation or never-ending monologues. At the same time, discussing ideas in person is ­actually really important.

T he amount of time invested in meetings is massive, which is true all around the globe. This state of affairs would not be a problem if the time invested yielded better results. But this is precisely the crux of the matter: meetings that are inefficient, sleep-inducing, have very little point or are completely superfluous end up costing employees a lot of time and companies a lot of money.

Many go in and little comes out

On average, employees spend around six hours in meetings week after week. For managers, meetings even account for 60 percent to 90 percent of their working hours. However, studies have found that about half of this time is spent unproductively. As a result, instead of engaging in dialog and sharing ideas, which is the purpose of meetings, participants usually spend the time doing other things, such as googling, emailing or chatting, according to a survey from Bitkom – the German IT industry association. This leads to frustration and also stress, if the work that actually needs to get done is still lying around unfinished on the desk. Do things have to be this way? The answer is “no,” as there is a number of easy approaches to create a positive meeting culture.

Is it really necessary?

Many meetings take place out of habit, and group meetings are not always the best format. Sometimes a one-on-one meeting is enough for ­discussing an issue. Take a closer look at the mailing list. Do the agenda items and the participants truly match up?

Ensure everyone knows what to expect!

Participants need to receive an agenda in good time. Everyone should be familiar with it and also do some preparation.

Take matters into your own hands!

Be disciplined when it comes to structuring and leading the meeting. That way, you will get people’s attention, keep participants on task and work through all items. And don’t forget to make decisions! Meetings are not just about sharing thoughts, but about achieving results.

You are the timekeeper!

Set a specific amount of time for each item and stick to it. Begin the meeting promptly and end it at the agreed time. Those colleagues who have to hurry ­­to the next meeting will thank you for it.

Take minutes!

Document the results of the meeting and those tasks that arise from it. Determine ahead of time who is responsible for keeping minutes and send them around to the participants promptly.

Ever thought about...?

A few small suggestions about how to structure a meeting differently.

Standing instead of sitting
Everyone knows that sitting for long periods of time is unhealthy. Why not hold your meeting standing up? It will keep everyone awake and facilitate productive dialog. Standing will also make your meeting shorter. After all, who wants to stand around forever?

Use a timer

People who have less time get to the point more quickly. By using a timer to limit the amount of time that each participant has to talk, you will see that shorter meetings work – and everyone appreciates the time they gain for other things.

Fresh air

Meeting spaces are often full and the air soon becomes stuffy. If the weather is nice, use the nearby park instead. The extra oxygen will stimulate the brain’s gray matter. And if only a handful of people are meant to come to the meeting, why not have the conversation while taking a stroll?