The Global Time-Wasting Epidemic: Stop the Meeting Madness

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

Global meetings have become synonymous with wasting time, regardless of the country, but thankfully, there is a cure.

Meetings have increasingly become a great enemy to everyone on the corporate ladder. Have you ever heard someone talk about how much they love meetings? Definitely not.

Still, there are more than 11 million formal meetings per day in the United States alone. Assuming on average that there are 3 meeting participants, this means 33 million employees are begrudgingly participating in mindless time sucks. 

Though meetings do serve their purpose on many occasions, there's plenty of reason to whine. U.S. professionals lose 31 hours per month to ineffective meetings. That's almost 4 work-days a month. The all too familiar status meetings take more than 9 hours per week, 4.6 to prepare and 4.5 hours to attend. Quite obviously, employees would rather watch paint dry than attend these.

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

I can pull out more and more staggering statistics, proving one simple point: the problem is not in the meetings themselves. Why?

Because the meeting itself can’t be made responsible for wasting our time and our money. More frequently than we would like to admit, the problem is in the person holding the meeting, and the way they're approaching it. But are meeting habits and processes in other countries any better? Let's take a look at global meeting habits. 

United States

Meetings in the U.S. are increasingly virtual, and commonly take place in order to update other team members on what is going on, as opposed to making a decision or coming to an agreement. Somewhat surprisingly, they can be characterized as aggressive and confrontational when compared to other countries. American meetings also often include formal presentations by participants. 

UK

In the United Kingdom, meetings are very frequent with relatively little preparation done beforehand. As such, they are viewed as open debate of an issue, which typically leads to them being inconclusive.

Japan

A more formal approach is taken in Japan, where meetings are about relationship building and information exchange. Typically, most of the debate around a topic happens offline, and a meeting is held to summarize those sentiments and formalize a decision, even though that decision has been concluded offline. 

According to Forbes, meeting dress is also very important in Japan, specifically for women: "A woman wearing pants in Japan...is discouraged. Modest dressing...includes keeping knees and elbows covered and buttoning shirts up right to the collar."

Russia

Russian meetings are characterized as being formal, serious and structural, and are often held solely for the purpose of information dissemination. They do not back down from confrontation, and in meetings, heirarchy ranks above all else. As such, it's not uncommon for a senior leader to go on long tangents and rants in meetings. Fun fact: it's considered rude to stand with your hands in your pockets during meetings in Russia. 

Australia

In Australia, meetings are representative of their overall demeanor as a culture. Their meetings are punctual, but often start with few minutes of small talk. 

Mexico

Meetings in Mexico typically start late, and run over the allotted time. They are typically emotionally charged and rather informal.

Even though customs vary from one country to another, there is one common denominator: time wasting. To a variable extent, these meetings could all be characterized as wasting are unproductive.

No matter which culture you’re apart of, time is perceived as a precious asset; an asset nobody is willing to waste. Yet, we are still saying yes to meeting  after meeting, and hold gatherings to discuss more vague topics.

Although we could limit the number of meetings, we can’t avoid all of them. The remedy to put a stop to this mindless meeting syndrome lies in our own hands.

Related Article: Meeting Mania: How to Curb this Corporate Addiction

Before your next meeting, make sure you are prepared and ready. Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Can you accomplish what needs to be done by speaking directly to key people?
  2. Does the agenda clarify expected outcome? Like Cameron Herold says: “no agenda, no attenda”.
  3. Is the guest list limited to only key players? Follow Steve Jobs footsteps and eliminate the least needed person from the group meeting. Nothing personal there, just a matter of saving time and money.
  4. Does my meeting satisfy these 30 criteria for an effective meeting?
  5. Am I committed to start and end on time? You can’t improve or manage what you don’t measure. In order to make the meetings shorter and to the point, start measuring your meeting length.

Use resources from Team Meeting Toolbox to make sure you’re prepped. Experiment with the meeting checklist to send out meeting invitations and make sure your gathering satisfies criteria for an effective meeting. Use a meeting timer to make time tangible, making sure it’s used optimally during the meeting.

It’s time to actively fight against our own inefficient meetings. Take advantage of these helpful resources and tools that will help you win the fight.

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