Avoiding Common Meeting Afflictions

What word comes to mind when you think of meetings? Invigorating? Strategic? Insomnia-curing?

One common complaint about meetings is they sap precious minutes (sometimes hours) from the day. A recent survey from Robert Half Management Resources found workers, on average, believe 25 percent of the time they spend in meetings is wasted.

What’s causing this? According to the workers interviewed, the biggest mistakes meeting leaders make are not having a clear purpose or agenda and not sticking to an agenda.

Here are some other pitfalls to avoid.

  • Holding a meeting for a meeting’s sake (i.e., because that’s what's always been done): A group email or quick watercooler chat may do the trick.
  • Waiting for late-comers to arrive before starting: Don’t penalize those who came on time. Consistently beginning meetings on schedule will help ensure people show up when they’re supposed to and demonstrate your respect for attendees’ time.
  • Using text-laden presentation slides: Visual aids should prompt discussion, not replace it. If you just want people to read notes, a memo likely will suffice.
  • Putting people on the spot: If there are issues you want others to cover, alert them in advance. They’ll be more prepared, and you’ll avoid the time wasted as they struggle to comment on the fly or rustle through notes.
  • Letting attendees go off-topic: It’s not easy, but meeting leaders – all participants, really – need to keep conversations on track. If someone starts a tangential riff, acknowledge their comments and then re-focus the discussion. If needed, schedule a follow-up communication to address the side issue raised.

Many of the pitfalls of in-person meetings plague conference calls as well, and neither of these formats need to be boring. As appropriate, add a dose of humor or even fun.

For the full survey results and more tips for running effective meetings, check out a Robert Half Management Resources blog post.

Were you surprised that workers, on average, say 25 percent of their time in meetings is wasted? What advice do you have for how meeting leaders can make these discussions more effective? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.