When was the last time that you said to yourself, “Wow, this was a great meeting”?
A couple of days ago? A month ago — or even longer? Wouldn’t it be great to be able to say those words after after every meeting you have?
The sad truth: millions of unproductive meetings happening every day
More than 10 million work-related meetings happen every day, and 40% of them are unproductive. Many employees have more than 5 meetings per week, with some managers spending close to 50% of their time in meetings.
If you do the math (number of unproductive meetings * average time spent per meeting * average number of participants) it becomes clear that companies lose more than $100 Billion of Human Capital value as a result of unproductive meetings every year — and that’s just in the US alone.
This number does not even reflect the even larger inherent problem: As employees spent too much time in lousy meetings, they become frustrated, demotivated, and begin to lose focus on their work.
So, what’s the problem with these meetings?
Common frustration points with meetings
We dug deeper into the results of existing research, by interviewing 50 people who attend at least five meetings per week. The common frustration points leading to bad meetings include:
- not having the right people in the meeting
- poor preparation
- lack of a clear objective
- no agenda
- people being distracted (e.g. engaging with their mobile phone)
- no tangible outcome
- lack of follow-up on defined to-dos
If we are aware of these pain points, how can we solve them? Let’s start with finding out how to make meetings work!
8 principles essential to running great meetings
When you google “productive meeting(s)”, you get 139 million results. Some of the first-page results include “10 Simple Ways To Have More Productive Meetings”, “The 7 Must-Know Rules of Productive Meetings” or “How To Run Your Meetings Like Apple and Google”. These, and thousands of other articles provide a variety of rules on how to run productive meetings.
Looking into these sets of rules, most of them share some common ground. You can summarize the top 8 principles that appear repeatedly within these guidelines:
- Ask yourself: Do I need this meeting at all? Or can you solve the issue through other means (e.g. email, phone call, etc.)
- Invite as few participants as possible. Limit (if possible) the number of participants to five people. To avoid spectators, the less the better.
- Keep it short. Schedule meetings for 15 or 25 minutes, rather than the typical 30 or 60 minutes. People will be more focused and to the point, saving everyone’s time.
- Define a clear objective. The purpose of the meeting must be crystal clear for everyone upfront. Restate the objective at the beginning of the meeting, and have a brief agenda that supports it.
- Start and end on time, or earlier. Do not wait for latecomers, because that just punishes those who are punctual. As soon as you achieve the meeting objective, the meeting is over. No need to fill up time.
- Capture your outcomes. Record the relevant meeting outcome (important note, decision, or action items) and make it available to participants so that everyone is always on the same page.
- Assign one DRI per action item. Every action item has one and exactly one DRI (Direct Responsible Individual), who is held publicly accountable.
- Do follow-ups. Every action item should have a proper and coordinated follow-up, so that everyone takes those action items seriously.
If eight points is all it takes, then we are back to my initial question: why are there still millions of unproductive meetings happening every day?
Because there is more to it…
Now that we know how to run meetings effectively, let’s analyze the underlying issues that help to explain why so many meetings still fail.
One core problem is that it requires effort to apply the principles above.
You need to put some sweat into it
The meeting organizer needs to prepare the meeting, moderate the discussion, and do proper follow-ups after the meetings. Unfortunately, we are all very busy with our daily business that we’re often reluctant to put extra effort into these additional duties. However, it usually pays back if you put an extra effort for your relevant meetings.
Let’s assume that you are willing to make this extra effort. Would that be enough to become a meeting hero? The answer is no, because in addition to the effort, you need to be extremely disciplined.
Be rigorous about making your meeting succeed
As a meeting organizer, you need to be highly focused on making the meeting a success. It starts with the right setup. What are you trying to achieve with the meeting? Who do we need to be present to make that objective possible? How do we achieve the goal?
Then, during the meeting, you need to make sure that you steer any discussion toward your key meeting objective, and respect the timing. After the meeting, it is essential to define the next steps, and formulate clear to-dos or follow-ups so that everyone has the same understanding. You must be disciplined and committed to completing these requirements to ensure your meeting’s success.
Having the discipline to make a meeting productive should not be a one-off event. Instead, it must become a habit.
Make it your routine
Once you have the know-how for effecting meetings and are prepared to put the necessary effort and discipline into actually doing what needs to be done, you need to make it a habit.
Of course, consistently running lively and efficient meetings might not seem easy. So how can you make that happen?
What are your options?
Option 1: You have the know-how, make the effort, are disciplined, and make it a habit, for yourself. Congratulations if you are already there!
Option 2: You have a fantastic colleague or assistant who takes care of everything! Again bravo, if you have the resources for this!
Option 3: You let a virtual assistant help you,
Let a virtual assistant help you
Exploring option 3, what if you had a virtual personal assistant who …
- Knows how to run effective meetings, and has been trained in the best-practices of highly productive teams?
- Minimizes your effort to prepare, moderate and do follow-ups, always has an agenda template ready, takes notes, and tracks all those next steps for you?
- Is disciplined, structured, keeps the time, and remains 100% focused on outcome?
- Makes great meetings a habit by connecting to your calendar, providing guidance, and always being available for you?
With such assistant, you can become one of the superstars in running great meetings, and not only make the best use of your time, but also the time of any other person who meets with you — all while saving your organization money. And maybe you will hear after every meeting now “Wow, this was a great meeting”!
And what if this personal assistant already existed?