As I plan for 2020, one of my resolutions is to share the dangers of noise – the regular distractions, useless information, and mindless chatter in our lives – and provide tools and techniques to help focus on what matters. Meetings are a huge source of noise. This is a constant issue at work, given that we spend the majority of our time in them.
On average, business professionals spend 23 hours a week in meetings1, so it’s a great place to start. Meetings are typically poorly organized. They’re too long, participants are unprepared and it’s unclear what the objective is. Most people would avoid going to them if given the choice.
Here’s a quick snapshot of how meetings have become a source of noise:
- One-third of all meeting time is considered ineffective.
- 92% of people admit to multitasking in meetings.
- Senior managers spend half their day in meetings.
- Executives consider more than 67% of meetings a failure.
- More than $37 billion per year is spent on unproductive meetings.
Clearly, there is room for dramatic improvement. Yet nobody speaks up to stop the madness. We must run better meetings; ones that people look forward to attending.
It’s time to demand change.
Here are five smart, bold changes you can make in meetings to reduce the noise and ensure you’re not informally complicit in an agreement to waste everyone’s time.
- Publish an agenda in advance to set expectations.
- Encourage people to leave their laptops and smartphones at their desks when attending meetings to promote improved conversations and efficient exchanges.
- Ask people to prepare before coming.
- Utilize whiteboards and flip charts, not screens, to foster collaboration, conversation, and creativity.
- Assign someone the responsibility to take notes and manage action items.
Challenge the conventional wisdom that you should be meeting at all. Time might be better spent doing something else. If you do meet, make sure that it is worth people’s time to have great conversations and come to decisions.
Running more productive meetings will have an instant impact and lower the noise. I wish you luck, and am confident that by taking these steps, you’ll feel more fulfilled by the meetings you have. For more tips to reduce the noise in your life, check out Noise: Living and leading when nobody can focus. Happy New Year!