Do you really know what your meeting downtime is costing you? We are all too familiar with the feeling of having to wait for someone who is late to a meeting. We may have even the person holding up a meeting ourselves at some point. The thing is, the number of meetings we all have are on the rise and they aren’t necessarily leading to more efficient, creative, or productive employees – especially as many of us continue to work remotely. We know how downtime happens. There is time for waiting for individuals to join a session or arrive in the room. There is the “I just need to go make a quick coffee” or time spent updating agendas or checking off items on a list. All things that can be completed before a meeting begins.
Meeting downtime can be a serious issue, not only because it “waster of time” of those involved but also because it can lead to decreased productivity and creativity. Often you get faced with a choice, extend your meetings or have less productive meetings. Sometimes, we might even have to schedule a second (or third, or fourth) meeting to discuss all of the items on the agenda. For those of us who have tight deadlines to complete tasks, meeting downtime increases pressure for our work as no work can be done while we are in meetings. Obviously, these are all negative outcomes.
I’m actually not a meeting hater, I think that they can serve a very useful collaborative purpose and help develop culture in an organization, however, I think there are times where my time could be more productive elsewhere, and considering 70% of meetings are a waste of time, and I feel I’m not alone in feeling this way. Have you ever considered the real costs of your meeting downtime? It’s an interesting thought experiment if you haven’t.
SO HOW WE CAN REDUCE MEETING DOWNTIME?
Bring an Agenda
A lack of purpose is one of the most time-consuming aspects of any meeting. Make sure you have a precise agenda to lead you through your meeting as fast and comprehensively as reasonable to cover all relevant details and keep things going at the right pace and in the right direction.
Engage Members to Break the Silence
Waiting for individuals to provide comments and raise concerns is one of the biggest timewasters during the meeting. Encourage all participants to arrive to the table with at least one idea or discussion topic before the meeting begins to avoid awkward silences and to help get everyone out of the room with action items faster. Additionally, this can actually help with the creativity process as well, as individuals will have fully fleshed out understand of the topic at hand and have already given issues some clear thought.
Break Up Long Meetings
If you absolutely can't avoid a four-hour meeting, breaking it up into several chapters will make things a lot simpler and more enjoyable. Tell your colleagues at the outset of the meeting that you'll break it down into manageable bites. Use each chunk to handle one set of concerns, then take a break after each one to check in with other teams, get some fresh air, and regroup.