Let's Talk Business

The Meeting that Should Have Been an Email

By , January 29, 2020

Why people hate meetings—and what you can do about it.

When you hear the word meeting, what’s your gut reaction?

The other day, I was listening to a podcast about productivity where the guest was bemoaning the amount of time that we waste on meetings. Curious if this feeling was the norm, I decided to turn to my LinkedIn community and ask: “When you hear the word ‘meeting,’ what is the first time that comes to mind?”

Well, over 8,000 views and 75 comments later, I got my answer.

Ninety-five percent of the comments were negative. Responses like “waste of time,” “here we go again,” “boring,” “unnecessary,” and “counterproductive” were common, along with many other negative associations.

Considering that we can spend up to 65% of our time in meetings, especially if we’re in a leadership position, this is a big problem.

But, I would argue, it’s one that can be solved. Because the problem people have isn’t meetings themselves; it’s the unproductive way those meetings are run.

So often when it comes to meetings, we forget to ask the most simple question: Is a meeting the best way to communicate this information? Or, put another way: Is a meeting the best use of our time here, or is there a more efficient way to achieve our goal?

Because there’s nothing worse than a meeting that could have been an email. (Except a year’s worth of meetings that could have all been emails.)

Here are a few of my favorite Ptex Practical Pointers for conducting productive, effective, and, yes, enjoyable meetings.

1. Assign a leader.

One person needs to take ownership of the meeting. They’re the one who will set and communicate the agenda ahead of time, determine the key decision-makers who must be present at the meeting, make sure the meeting starts and ends on time, and ensure that it stays on topic and achieves its goal. Without a leader who takes responsibility for the success of a meeting, it will likely fail in at least one of those crucial areas.

3. Communicate whether it’s a “decision” or “discussion” meeting.

Generally, meetings have two purposes. Sometimes it’s to brainstorm, bounce ideas, gather ideas. And sometimes, it’s to reach a decision about something. Everyone at that meeting needs to be clear on which one it is! Otherwise, not only will people not come properly prepared, but there’s a high likelihood that people will come out more frustrated and confused than they came in—and you’ll be no closer to achieving your goal.

3. Start and end on time.

If you’ve reached the end of the meeting and you haven’t finished, don’t go over the meeting time. Simply schedule another meeting to continue the conversation. Similarly, if the conversation ends earlier than expected, don’t be afraid to end the meeting early! Make sure to leave time for at least 5 minutes of “wrap-up” time and the end to review takeaways, so that each person is clear on their next steps.

Face-to-face meetings can be extremely powerful when they’re done right. These tips are just the tip of the ice burg (no pun intended), but I hope they help you make your meetings more productive.

What have you done to improve the way you run meetings? Comment and let me know! I would love to hear from you.

Meny Hoffman

Meny Hoffman

Meny Hoffman is the Chief Executive Officer of Ptex Group, an Inc. 500/5000-ranked marketing and business services firm headquartered in Brooklyn, NY.

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