Meetings: When Are They Needed and When Are They Not?

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

73% of professionals admit to doing unrelated work in meetings and 39% even admit to dozing off. Let's change that.

We've all been in meetings and thought, 'Do I really need to be here?'

In fact, 73 percent of professionals admit to doing unrelated work in meetings and 39 percent even admit to dozing off.

As well as wasting massive amounts of time, unnecessary meetings also cost companies thousands of dollars. It seems kind of antithetical, in a society where workers are restricted from printing pages in colored ink to save money, that meetings can be set up by almost anyone, for almost any reason.

Obviously, sometimes meetings are necessary. We just have to determine when this is the case, and when issues can be resolved without meetings.

Related Article: Hate Meetings? 4 Hacks to Ease the Pain

How to Determine When Meetings Are Needed

In the U.S. alone, 31 hours are spent in unproductive meetings each month and a staggering $37 billion is wasted in unnecessary meetings every year. To ensure you are not wasting time or money, there are five questions you should ask yourself before setting up a meeting:

1. Do We Have a Good Reason to Meet?

Sometimes, an issue discussed at length in a 90-minute meeting could have been resolved a lot easier through a group email or a quick conference call. Before setting up a meeting, make sure you have a good reason for asking everyone to meet up face-to-face.

2. What Are the Goals of This Meeting?

It's important to outline clear goals that you want to achieve by the end of the meeting. This will increase productivity and save time as it will stop people jumping from one subject to the next. It's also important to make sure everyone involved knows what those goals are.

3. Is It the Right Time?

If a critical team member suddenly becomes unavailable, or if you are still waiting on some important information, then surely it isn't the right time to arrange your meeting. Meetings should be postponed until you have everything you need to carry them out effectively.

4. Does Everyone Invited Actually Need to Be There?

No one wants to waste their time in a meeting that holds little or no relevance to them. It can be frustrating and cut a huge chunk out of their day, decreasing productivity. When setting up a meeting, think clearly about who needs to be there and why.

Related Article: 7 Ineffective Ways to Conduct a Meeting

5. Is Everyone Well Informed and Prepared?

Make sure everyone enters the meeting on the same page, that way, you can save time on explanations and get straight to the point. Ensuring everyone is prepared and has had time to think about the matters at hand will also help people enter the meeting ready to share great ideas.

After answering these questions, you should have a good idea as to whether a meeting is needed or not.

Once in a meeting, the purpose of the meeting should remain strong and clear. There are two main purposes which meetings are needed for:

To Reach a Decision

There's no point having a meeting simply to catch up with colleagues. Any issues that are discussed in a 'catch up' meeting can usually be fixed by a simple one-on-one discussion. All meetings should have a purpose and agenda—before they begin. On walking out, a decision should have been reached that everyone is happy with.

When used to reach a decision, meetings can be a great way for colleagues to collaborate with one another.

To Brainstorm

Brainstorming is not only a great way to uncover an original idea or find the best solution to a problem, it also improves the atmosphere of the work environment. Creativity motivates people and brainstorming in a meeting will help to bring colleagues together.

By gathering lots of different people with a mixture of skills and experience together in a meeting, you can generate a high amount of useful ideas and solutions to problems.

How to Determine When Meetings Are Not Needed

It's easier than you think to determine when meetings aren't needed. The biggest clue?

No one will be engaged!

If you need to add extra measures to increase the productivity of your meetings, for example, by asking everyone to stand up for the entirety of a meeting so that they don't accidentally nod off, or banning electronic devices so that people have to pay attention, then you're doing something wrong!

These methods may sound crazy, but these are just some of the lengths companies are going to in an attempt to improve the productivity of their meetings.

However, if you're going to lengths like this just to get people to pay more attention, you may want to ask yourself if the meeting is all that necessary in the first place.

Still unsure on when meetings are needed and when they're not?

There are a few online tools that help to determine the approximate cost of a meeting, like MeetingTicker and MeetingCostCalculator. Tools like this are sometimes helpful as once you see the actual cost of a meeting you can then make a decision on whether it is worth it or not.

Final Thoughts

On average, 37 percent of employee time is spent in meetings. So it's important to make every meeting count. Meetings should work to accelerate the day ahead and increase productivity, not the opposite.

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