Roughly 11 million business meetings take place in the US every day. That’s 220 million meetings a month, or over a billion meetings every year. But what do they have in common? Apart from allowing two or more people to talk to each other, not much.
There are many different types of meeting, from team check-ins and one-on-one catch-ups to idea generation and problem-solving sessions. It’s helpful to think of meetings falling under one of four categories:
- Decision making
- Information sharing
- Idea creating
- Team building
Defining meetings can help us to understand their purpose and build more tailored strategies to make them effective.
Why do you need business meeting strategies?
Businesses that fail to plan their meetings face a number of problems. Online scheduling service Doodle found that poorly planned meetings cost US companies more than $339 billion a year. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
To use time efficiently
According to a survey from hotel chain Crowne Plaza, employees in the UK, France and Germany spend 187 hours in meetings a year. That’s a lot of time. But the worst thing about it is that the staff believe 56% of these made no difference to their working day. The average professional from the countries surveyed wastes almost 13 days a year in unproductive meetings - days that people could have spent doing other things.
Delays to meetings also waste time. The average delay per session across 19 different countries is 10 minutes and 40 seconds. That’s 3 days and 2 hours lost every year. And the number creeps up for more experienced employees - senior executives lose 5 days and 19 hours a year to delayed meetings.
To make office meetings more productive
Without a strategy, meetings can become aimless. One study found that 38% of professionals said poor organization leads to a loss of focus on projects. Team members must know their responsibilities before and after a meeting. A carefully written meeting agenda will help keep everyone focused during your call and on-task after it.
If organizers invite too many people to a meeting, the extra numbers can negatively affect productivity. Research from Doodle found that 31% of workers believe that irrelevant attendees slow progress. Cutting down on numbers can save time and speed up progress in tasks.
To avoid misunderstandings
When you don't correctly organize meetings, people can become confused. Questions like, ‘Why am I invited to this meeting?’ or, ‘Do I have to prepare something?’ can arise. If you can't provide answers, people bring those unanswered questions to the meeting, wasting valuable time. Misunderstandings after a meeting are even more costly. If people are unclear about their responsibilities after teams have spoken, tasks can fall through the gaps.
To reduce conflict
People are less likely to focus during a poorly organized meeting, which can generate some frustrating behaviours. One report found that taking phone calls or sending text messages is the most irritating thing someone can do during a meeting. Over half (55%) of people surveyed said that using phones annoyed them. And just over a fifth (21%) of workers said people who didn’t contribute to the discussion had the same effect.
To keep morale high
Needlessly inviting people to a meeting can leave them feeling frustrated. If a leader sets tasks for their team but doesn’t give them enough time to complete them, employees can lose faith in their managers. Without a clear action plan or assigning clear responsibilities, people can feel that their ideas are overlooked or think the business ignores their skills while giving tasks to less suitable team members.