Inefficient Meetings: Just Say No

Inefficient Meetings: Just Say No

Posted June 24, 2015 by Caroline Whitney in Managing Your Team
Inefficient meetings are a dreaded reality in most workplaces. Make your meetings faster, more efficient and more fun with these tips.

Everyone seems to despise meetings. Why? They’re long, usually boring, inefficient, and eat up a lot of the work day.  People often feel like they could be spending their time better elsewhere.  

But- shocker - meetings are truly important to a business.  Our CEO, Isaac Oates, has already shared his thoughts  about the importance of effective meetings, and the downsides to disorganized ones.  I’m here to elaborate!

Meetings are a great way solve problems, communicate important information, brainstorm ideas, and receive feedback.  Meetings are also a venue in which to recognize accomplishments and motivate others to keep up the good work.  It’s a place where employees can build quality relationships and feel more connected to the company as a whole.  "Meetings matter because that's where an organization's culture perpetuates itself… [they’re] how an organization says, 'you are a member,’” says William R. Daniels, senior consultant at American Consulting and Training.  What does this ultimately do for your employees?  It builds good employee morale!

So yes, we need meetings. But do they have to be boring and inefficient? Certainly not. Why not redefine the dreaded phrase “staff meeting” for your company? Here’s how.  

Types Of Meetings & Common Problems

There are a variety of types of meetings you may have at your company:

  • regular staff meetings

  • project or team meetings

  • cross department meetings

  • information sharing or update meetings

  • problem solving meetings

  • one-on-one (including supervisory) meetings

In my humble opinion, staff meetings and one-on-one supervisory meetings are probably the most common and important meetings - but they can also can come with an array of problems.

Regular staff update meetings are perhaps the most dreaded of all meetings at a workplace.  This is a regularly scheduled meeting often used to check in with the whole staff and update everyone about what has been going on at the company.  We’ve all been part of the unproductive staff meeting, where we’ve felt as if the topics didn’t concern us, or that the conversations were slow and cyclical.  We’ve all heard whispers of, “I have so much work to do; why am I here?” during these meetings.  We’ve seen people so bored, that they’re checking out Kim Kardashian’s Instagram feed, browsing Facebook, or they’re sending cute cat pictures back and forth (okay- that was me).  

In one of his blog posts, Isaac wrote about how when he interned at Yahoo in 2006, people were doing precisely those things during meetings.  Everyone was so unprepared, and not much got done, and that was reflected in the company shortly.

The one-on-one supervisory meeting is another common meeting.  Supervision meetings are integral for employee feedback, whether it’s positive or negative.  At one of my past jobs, one in which I worked fairly independently, I hardly ever met with my supervisor.  Sure, I would chat with my colleagues about what was happening at work, and ask for help when I needed it, but I wasn’t receiving any criticism or positive reinforcement - which I desperately wanted!  I had a fairly difficult job, and I wanted that feedback.  I craved it!  Without supervisor facetime, I would often feel bogged down, stressed out, and lost.  I didn’t know if I was doing the job right, and I had no idea what I should improve on.  

So, how do we avoid these problems with inefficient meetings?  How do we ensure that staff meetings, supervisory meetings, and every other type of meetings are living up to their potential?

The Dos And Don'ts Of Effective Meetings

  • Make your meetings regularly scheduled, and at times when people are most receptive to ideas. It’s probably not a good idea to plan your meeting for 4:00 PM on a Friday.

  • Keep it short and sweet. Of course, shorter is better when there are a million other things to do around the office.  This will also help you and your staff boil the meeting down to the essentials.  Keep it to 90 minutes or less. Preferably, 60 minutes or less. People will stay engaged this way.  Time is money, people!

  • No company outsiders. Okay, sometimes you do want some outside perspective. But if their input is that important, schedule it in a separate meeting! Keep the staff meeting to staff only.  

  • No phones or laptops (that’s an Isaac-endorsed tip). This one’s obvious - it’ll keep me from texting my coworker Mary that cute picture of Englebert, the tiny dog with his own Instagram account.  

  • Be organized. Stay on track, perhaps with an agenda and clearly defined objectives. Open the meeting by reiterating its purpose and what questions you want answered.

  • Don’t be boring.  “If every day we go to boring meetings full of boring people, then we can't help but think that this is a boring company,” says Daniels. “Bad meetings are a source of negative messages about our company and ourselves." Make it fun, when appropriate.  To me, fun = food.  Have you heard of our themed potluck idea?

  • Engage. Remember, there are all types of learners: auditory (they learn from listening, so describe that pitch well!), visual (they learn from watching, so utilize pictures and graphs), and kinesthetic (they learn from doing, let them be the ones who write the ideas on the whiteboard!).  Incorporate different mediums into your meeting so that all are engaged.

  • Allow more open communication, less brainstorming. Make sure your meeting is a receptive environment for people’s thoughts and opinions.  More minds = more ideas.  But don’t have a brainstorming session IN the meeting.  Brainstorming is great; it allows a person to think freely.  But brainstorming in a big group at a big meeting could actually have the opposite effect: it could cause people to just listen to others, and not think on their own.  Have employees brainstorm before the meeting, independently, then come to the meeting ready to discuss the topic.  This way, the brainstorming will have boundaries, the meeting will be more efficient, and you won’t have to waste time listening to Emily from legal babble on and on about who knows what.

And always remember to convert decisions into action. Make a plan and assign duties. Discuss next steps. Follow up.  Review what worked at your meeting, and what didn’t.  Make that meeting count!  Your employees can always text each other the new taco emoji later.



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This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, legal or tax advice. If you have any legal or tax questions regarding this content or related issues, then you should consult with your professional legal or tax advisor.