To Meet or Not to Meet?
How to Save Yourself from Useless Meetings by Asking Yourself These Three Questions
By: Eric Phamdo, Causewave Community Partners

No matter what you dislike most about meetings, you’re probably not alone. Studies show that ineffective meetings result in lower employee engagement, delayed decisions, loss of revenue, and resentment toward management. All of which contribute to loss of productivity, no wonder we all dread a meeting from time to time. Despite that, the amount of time workers spend in meetings has only increased in the last 50 years.

So how can we address this scourge on workplace productivity? The most obvious place to start is to look at whether or not a meeting is even necessary. When should you convene a meeting -versus literally anything else?

Use these three questions as a litmus test for your meetings:

  1. What is the goal?

    Effective meetings are convened for a specific purpose. Whether your group needs to deliver a decision, brainstorm new ideas to pursue, or develop an action plan, this answer will drive all other decisions related to the meeting. Participants are also more engaged when there is a clear objective for the meeting and when they understand how they will uniquely contribute (sending an agenda in advance really helps).

  2. To meet or not to meet?

    With your goal in hand, ask yourself, “Do I really need a meeting to achieve it?” Meetings can waste time and money. But there are plenty of legitimate reasons to hold a meeting. Bringing people together is a valuable activity, when done correctly. Decision-making (with empowered stakeholders) is a valuable reason to convene a meeting, as are creative brainstorm sessions. A good test is to determine whether the results can be best achieved with a meeting or through other collaborative communication tools such as group chat, project management platforms, or simply a phone call. Tip: information sharing is usually not a good reason to have a meeting.

  3. Who must be there?

Effective meetings depend heavily on one thing – the people in the room. For example, if your meeting result is to brainstorm new ideas, does the invitee list contain people with the necessary technical expertise, creative talent and diversity of perspectives to deliver the results? Or if your meeting goal is to deliver a decision, do the people in the room have the authority to do so? There is nothing more disheartening to a group than coming to consensus on a decision, only to have an absent decision-maker naysay the result. Too often, we invite the right people, but settle for whoever shows up. It may seem drastic, but if a key person can’t attend a meeting, reschedule for a time they can attend. This drives accountability amongst groups, letting everyone know that participation is vital and necessary for a meeting’s results. Achieving the meeting’s goal starts well before the meeting – with clarity on what each attendee’s unique contribution to the meeting result will be.

Keep your eyes open for the next articles in this series which will discuss designing and running meetings to produce results, and cultivating trust and relationships among participants. Resources used in this article can be found here.