In a 2009 workplace study, 5,000 European managers said that much of the time spent on meetings could easily be saved. And I expect that the number of meetings has not decreased in the meantime. The same is true for online meetings.
How can leaders and employees save on the time it takes to conduct meetings? This can be accomplished by
… Cutting superfluous meetings,
… Not participating in those points on the agenda where your presence is not required, and
… Making sure the length dedicated to individual meeting topics is no more than they merit.
What percentage of meetings do you think could be saved?
According to the study, over 30%!
I have worked as a leader at Unilever for many years, and I can confirm this. Valuable working time is frittered away because individual participants want to have their time in the spotlight, because colleagues repeatedly wander off-topic, and because individual participants are simply not necessary for some sections of the meeting.
Having meeting rules laid out on the tables of meeting rooms rarely changes anything.
What it takes are leaders or even employees who are consistently (!) committed to making meaningful use of meeting time.
Some of the basics are starting promptly, no rehashing for latecomers, and the banishing of electronic devices like smartphones and laptops that have nothing to do with the meeting.
In principle, everyone attending should be occupied by their participation that they have no possibility to check e-mails, let alone respond to calls.
However, since this is often not the case, it is understandable that the vast majority of managers may well check and even reply to e-mails on the sidelines of a meeting.
What can you do specifically to ensure better meetings?
Let’s take a concrete look at this:
1. Meetings that you organize and
2. Meetings that you attend and others organize.
Define a goal for each agenda point: Instead of having a “Project Conversion Update”, the agenda point should be “budget and new timing for Project Conversion”. These are the only points to be discussed.
Set a time limit for each agenda point and stick to it. To do this, you will need a timekeeper who oversees compliance with time. This person will make regular announcements about how much time is left, especially at around two minutes before the cut-off point: “Ten more minutes… two more minutes…”
Only invite individual employees to specific agenda points. This also prevents inattentive participants and tapping on smartphones, because all those present are actually required to participate in the respective agenda point. In this way, attendees can also expect a specific start time, because you will have set a time limit for each item on the agenda.
Just these three simple measures will help you save significant time in your meetings. Implementation, however, requires rethinking your approach to meetings and sticking to it. Only with commitment and effort will you be able to save 20 to 30% of your meeting time.
Speaking of time, how much do you actually spend in meetings? How many hours would that be each day on average?
If you spend only 3 hours a day in meetings, that’s 15 hours per week; if you were to save 20% of that, you would gain 3 hours a week.
Is it worth the effort to save 3 hours each week?
You can certainly use this time wisely.
How about walking out the office an hour early once a week and stopping by the gym on the way home?
What can you do as a meeting attendee? My top tip: Forward this article to the organizer of a meeting you attend regularly.
Discuss implementing the three points mentioned. Then consider who should be responsible for organizing the meeting. Should the leader do this? Could the assistant take over? The latter would be more suitable. After all, my motto is “Hunt like a Lion”, and lions themselves don’t hunt. They delegate this existentially important task to the slimmer and faster lionesses.
A decisive factor – regardless of whether you are organizing or merely attending the meeting – is that you inform all participants and demand meeting discipline – over and over again. If you don’t do it, no one else will.
If this is all a bit too complicated for you, then do at least heed this advice: From now on hold your meetings with everyone standing. Completely ban coffee, biscuits and the like. This automatically reduces the time meetings take.
Why do you think more and more companies are holding morning stand-up meetings that last a maximum of 15 minutes? Nobody gets to sit down and make themselves comfortable. The focus is on a short and focused exchange.
I wish you the best of success in holding efficient meetings and in using your time for activities that are even more meaningful than meetings.
Your Markus Jotzo
If you liked this blog, then forward it to a leader who is well-disposed towards you. Also, share with each other what you have each implemented from it. In that way, you can encourage each other, learn, and get better.