7 Reasons why your meetings are unproductive

Have you ever sat in a meeting where you wished you had not turned up? If you are reading this, my guess is you had. Or you may even be the one who had called for the meeting and regretted it after the meeting got started.

While meetings are necessary when working in teams they often don’t turn out the way you planned it.

Let’s take a look at these situations and see if they sound familiar to you :

  • Many ideas were discussed at the meeting. But weeks and months later none of the ideas has yet to be implemented.
  • Meeting that is supposed to an hour lasted for hours; and more than half of the attendees had hardly spoken a word throughout the meeting!
  • You sat in a meeting and started wondering if an email would have sufficed.
  • A meeting where you started to sense that people are reluctant to share new ideas
  • Only one or two “significant” members seemed to be controlling the conversation.
  • People stop turning up for meetings!
  • You often find yourself wondering : “Why am I even here?”

If the above situations sound familiar to you, find out why it happened from the 7 common causes and the remedy for each.

1. No clear purpose for the meeting

Solution: Revisit the purpose of the meeting. If it is largely for “broadcasting” decisions or updates, consider ditching the meeting. Keep that meeting slot when it requires a deeper dive into issues and possible solutions that need to be discussed and acted on.

2. No (or vague) agenda items. If they are not specified, it is difficult to plan for or allocate time for discussion. This opens the gates for people to hijack the meeting with their own agenda.

Solution: Plan for and circulate agenda items in advance.

3. No prior communication. If your meeting requires delving into extensive text or reports, consider pre-reading “homework”. To ensure that everyone does their “homework” prior to the meeting, consider using Surveymonkey to track that everyone has reviewed the document before coming to the meeting. For a high performing team, you may challenge them further by getting each to take ownership of certain section of the document or slides and to share their key takeaways. That way everyone comes prepared and informed, because no one wants to look silly and unprepared.

4. No protocols or ground rules.

Solution: Start with basic ground rules like a single conversation at any time, no side chats and no mobile phone usage except for urgent calls. This would go a long way in ensuring that both time and objectives are not derailed.

5. Poor time management.

Solution: In addition to ground rules, ensure that each agenda item is assigned a fixed amount of time for discussion. .

6. No “Next Steps”: Without a structure or mechanism that facilitates consensus building, action planning or prioritisation of action items, the meeting will not result in concrete action.

Solution: Assign a team member who is skilled at facilitating discussions to guide members to brainstorm and own ideas they are passionate about, prioritise them for implementation; and get the group to agree on a timeline for action.

7. Over invitation: All of us may have been guilty of this at some point in time. This is akin to someone CC copying an email to the entire world for fear of missing out someone important.

Solution: Ensure that you have identified the “key hats” and who will be the one wearing them early on before you even set a meeting date. Once this is done, consider using tools like Doodle.com which is a free online scheduling app, to poll for a common available meeting slot.

(Look out for Part 2 : The Ideal Meeting, where we will dive deeper into preparing and running the perfect highly engaging meeting for your organisation)