This article first appeared in the Summer 2017 issue of The Record.
Properly managed meetings are essential to business and allow us to plan, strategise, collaborate and get things done. But as we are all only too aware, meetings aren’t always managed in such a way and the list of faults with the meeting process are endless.
We commissioned research into the meeting habits of UK office workers and it revealed that, on average, people attend 3.1 meetings every week, spending in total more than nine hours attending and preparing for those meetings.
That instinctively feels like too long. People don’t generally like to be static and cooped up for so long, and it is also taking people away from their actual work. So, assuming that meetings will remain an integral part of working life, what can be done to make them work better?
I have found that the first 15 minutes of a meeting can often be taken up with pleasantries and general catching-up with people. I’m all for manners, but if chit-chat is important then people should arrive for their meeting a little earlier.
I don’t think it is unreasonable that at 10:30 everyone should be sitting down and ready to get started. Unless there are exceptional circumstances, then lateness is not on either – is your time really more important than that of the other attendees?
Preparation is also important for the smooth running of a meeting, and all attendees should have the agenda, previous meeting minutes and actions at their fingertips. Not only will this mean there is less chance of repeating historic agenda items, but it also means that it is quick and easy to do a quick fact check during the meeting, if necessary.
No one needs reams of paper, so any materials should all be accessible via tablet or smartphone, so people can read through in advance more easily, rather than carrying sheets of paper everywhere with them. With three or more meetings each week, that’s an awful lot of paper being wasted, and often, unread.
Online meeting tools will allow attendees to collaborate and annotate documents during the meeting itself. Furthermore, actions can be easily agreed and captured so you don’t have to rely on an attendee’s faulty memory to refer to what was discussed. This means users can remain on top of any governance requirements and also be more transparent in all elements of meeting administration.
Other areas of business have been brought up-to-date in terms of attitudes and technology, and it is high time that meetings followed suit.
Alister Esam is CEO at eShare