7 Ineffective Ways to Conduct a Meeting

Business.com / Strategy / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Nobody likes meetings. But companies keep holding them. Here are seven ways to ensure your meetings are as ineffective as everyone else's.

Nobody says they like meetings. They take away from actually getting work done. According to a Microsoft survey, employees globally spend an average of 5.6 hours a week in meetings. Sixty-nine percent of participants feel that these meetings are unproductive and unnecessary. It's estimated that Fortune 500 companies waste $75 million each year in meetings. Yet meetings continue. Why?

According to a Citrix Online study, workers still prefer to see each other in person. It would be nice to be both social and accomplish something, but that doesn't always happen.

Here are seven ways to make sure your next meeting sets a standard for wasting time.

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1. Start the meeting the same way every time without tailoring your message to the clients/audience in the room.

There's nothing like the same-old, same-old to get people checking their Facebook updates while pretending to be so busy and important that they are doing work emails. Familiarity may breed contempt, but it also prevents expectations from getting too high (you don't want to risk disappointing anyone, after all).

2. Be device-friendly.

It would be cruel to separate people from their smart devices. You can't expect anyone to allow a push notification to go unread for 15 minutes, let alone half an hour. You don't want your employees to be out of touch. They're important people doing important things that require real-time updates. And, of course, all that texting going on is 100 percent work-related.

3. Don't be the bearer of bad news.

Nobody wants to hear things aren't going as they should. You don't want to bring people down by being honest with them. Maybe those problems will go away by themselves. And if they don't, well, why make people worry that their jobs may be in jeopardy? It'll be traumatic enough when you're forced to lay them off. In the meantime, don't make people anxious about that possibility. It's not as if there's anything you can do about it.

4. Don't say why.

Erika Andersen describes a meeting where none of the attendees knew why they were there, what was expected of them, or what the meeting was supposed to be about. This is an excellent way to get people together to do absolutely nothing.

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5. Have a "red wine" discussion without an actionable outcome.

According to Charlie Kim, some meetings might as well be served with red wine. They might be interesting, even enjoyable, but nothing really is accomplished besides getting people together (except maybe a hangover).

6. Let everyone have a say, whether anyone wants to hear it or not. 

People get off track, sometimes to the point of sharing personal stories of interest to them, but not to anyone else or the business. Still, you want people to be able to express themselves. No need to cut people off just because what they're saying is irrelevant and wasting time.

7. Don't bother taking minutes.

Everyone will remember whatever it was you were talking about. And wasn't somebody supposed to follow up on something?

If, after all this, you're thinking about ways you can minimize the time employees spend in meetings, consider some of these alternatives: group meal, sporting event, party, excursion, team public service, silent hour.

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