on July 16, 2021 (last modified on January 21, 2022) • 20 minute read
A recent survey showed that companies worldwide hold 55 million meetings each week. Another research found that employees attend around two hours of useless meetings a week. That means they’re wasting their time, but also the money – a staggering $541 billion in resources.
Shocking, isn’t it?
Well, it comes as no surprise that both employees and executives today have started questioning every meeting they see on the schedule, especially with the number of virtual meetings being so overwhelming. Which ones are pointless and easily replaced by an email? And which ones are critical for your company’s growth and an individual’s professional development?
If you’re not sure, rely on the tips coming from experienced professionals. In this article, we’ve covered the topic comprehensively and you’ll find out exactly which meetings you should attend and which ones to avoid.
Jump to the section you’re most interested in:
Some types of team meetings can, in fact, be quite prolific. If planned well and if there’s a clear objective, everyone attending can benefit from having an hour-long chat with their team members, managers, or company executives.
According to our research, over 33% of people attend four to five meetings a week, while less than 10% of participants in the survey only attend one. The fact that 30% of people attend more than five meetings a week may surprise you!
The same survey showed that, on average, around 45% of people spend between two and five hours in meetings per week. A bit under 20% of participants said they spent between five and 10 hours in meetings every week, while over 10% of professionals have over ten-hour-long meetings during a week.
Is the situation similar in your company? Think it’s time to optimize meetings and make sure you only hold them when they’re really necessary and generate a helpful outcome? Here’s the list of eight useful team meetings that every business should organize.
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“Every team member needs a 1:1 meeting with their direct boss”, says Lydia Mansel of The ABM Agency. “Especially as more and more companies head to the remote-forever option.”
Mansel explains how this type of meeting contributes to overall happiness and productivity within your team. “This ensures all questions are answered, any miscommunication is solved or avoided completely, and there’s a mutual feeling of support, comradery, and connection. Without a weekly or monthly 1:1, you leave an opening for resentment, unhappiness, and nonchalance that just isn’t conducive to a healthy or productive workplace.”
It’s true – whether you’re a remote-first company or work in the office – communication is key to success. As a manager, you need to know what your employees are working on and what challenges they’re facing. Robert Colville of The Lazy Trader agrees that upper management and general staff need 1:1 meetings to stay in touch and work productively.
“These meetings are the only way for management to stay in touch with their employees. I think managers should look to speak with employees on a 1:1 basis around every 3-4 months, even if just for a ten-minute chat – just to get a feel for the general sentiment and workflow within the company.”
Katrina Dalao of Referral Rock says there’s a difference between status update meetings, which are not as necessary, and meaningful team meetings. “Especially for remote teams, this is a time for team members to have their time with their managers. It could be about career goals, struggles, things they want to learn – anything a team member wants to share, really. This is important because it’s a good way to hear things from a team member’s perspective and learn more about their work motivations.”
And here’s one more benefit of having 1:1 meetings. Think about it – have you ever wanted to discuss something with your manager without sharing it with your peers, simply because it doesn’t concern them? So, not only do these meetings “provide an opportunity to discuss new ideas, but they also serve as a way to hash out ideas or address concerns that otherwise may not be appropriate to discuss with other team members present”, says Casey Crane of SectigoStore.
Imagine this. You’re sitting at a table with your team and you’re trying to come up with a new project idea. You’re all thinking out loud, inspiring each other, working together as a true team. Would you attend such a meeting?
Probably. Brainstorming meetings are the type of meetings respondents in our survey attend most often (over 80%). Other common types of meetings are status update meetings (75%), client meetings (60%), kickoff team meetings (55%), etc.
Alina Clark of CocoDoc thinks you should. “Brainstorming meetings are crucial for team improvement. New ideas fuel business growth. A brainstorming meeting is a critical part of the business if you want to capture ideas on the go and solve new issues quickly.” says Clark and suggests keeping this type of meeting short: “You don’t need to have three hours of brainstorming in order to solve simple issues. The best brainstorming meetings are in fact, done as stand-in meetings. They’re short, efficient, and focused on the issue.”
Tori Bell of Clever Touch Marketing underlines the importance of the constant flow of new ideas for any business that wants to grow. “The company needs a constant flow of new ideas so you need meetings where everyone gets together to share new ideas and decide which ones to proceed further with. These meetings must be free of judgment and focused on the ideas themselves and not the outcome. Once you have a bunch of suitable ideas you can sit down and go through them in greater detail to finalize which ones to implement.”
Benjamin Sweeney of ClydeBank Media LLC finds this subtype of brainstorming meetings quite useful. It’s one thing to brainstorm with your own team – people with who you spend most of your time and you can almost read their minds… But it’s something completely different to come up with new ideas while sitting with coworkers from different departments. It opens new viewpoints and brings a fresh perspective to your projects.
“Cross-silo collaboration meetings are increasingly the most productive meetings we have,” says Sweeney. “While less frequent than other types of meetings, the ability to brainstorm and sound off with people from other, related areas of our business has been really helpful and has prevented redundant effort. Plus, if teams have an open mind, we can find ways to help solve each other’s problems by pooling resources.”
With more and more companies getting an employee wellness strategy in place and understanding the importance of mental health in the workplace, some professionals have introduced a new type of meeting into their schedules – wellness checkups.
“Teams need all sorts of meetings, from brainstorming to sync ups, but the one that can’t be forgotten is the wellness check-ups,” says Beth Cooper of KNB Communications. “Particularly during these times where remote working is the norm, it’s imperative for supervisors to check in on their employees’ mental health. We have a team meeting once a week, in the middle of the week, just for 15 minutes to de-stress. It’s helpful to everyone that we remain mindful of our mental state and consciously seek to de-escalate any stressors. We don’t allow any work-related topics at this meeting; it’s reserved strictly for gabbing, venting, or rejuvenating chats.”
Venting helps you get rid of the stress, so you’re ready to get back to work and reach your full potential when it comes to productivity!
How successful was your latest project? Have your employees improved since they came to the company or since you last chatted?
Lily Ugbaja of Finding Balance says feedback/retrospective meetings where you discuss the work you’ve done are crucial. “These are meetings where the work done so far is analyzed, loopholes are pointed out, what is working vs what isn’t, and general dissecting of process and evaluating KPIs.”
It’s understandable that, once a huge project is over, you only want to de-stress as you feel like you can finally breathe. However, that may be the perfect time to hold a feedback meeting, while everything is still fresh, according to Vickie Pierre of CheapCarInsuranceQuotes.
“To neglect to have some kind of debrief may very well be a recipe for failure. It’s simple: taking the time to review your work is important. To avoid having a retrospective meeting can easily lead to mistakes being repeated, and overlooking obvious errors. But in all fairness, retrospective meetings won’t always be about shortcomings or failures. These meetings can be great opportunities to not only celebrate your successes but also to expound upon and improve the things that worked.”
And what’s a better way to wind a project up than to celebrate your results together?
Finally, these meetings can be an important place for teammates to gather and analyze data. From that place, new ideas can be born, and important strategies can be implemented.
Eden Cheng of PeopleFinderFree gave us a fantastic overview of how important onboarding meetings are. Not only do they help new employees find their way around a new company, but they can also make them want to stick with their team. Although many senior managers are wondering if so many meetings are truly necessary, “The onboarding meeting is that meeting type, which every team needs,” says Cheng and explains further:
“Approximately 70% of employees want to work for their preferred company for a maximum of 3 years after getting an exclusive onboarding experience. So, the onboarding meetings help the new teammates learn how they can easily glide through the big picture. It helps them begin their relationship with the wider company and their managers on the correct foot. Moreover, it gives a signal to the new employees that the organization bothers them and can invest anything to provide them a hassle-free transition into the workplace.”
All hands on deck! Think it’s not possible to hold a meeting with so many participants? Sam Browne of Find a Band suggests “Townhall” or “All-hands meetings” for several reasons.
“These are gatherings in which all members of a company congregate in a town hall to discuss ideas, provide feedback, and share their perspectives on management and vice versa. Townhall gatherings are mutually beneficial. It provides a forum for members of the organization as well as top officials to express their opinions and better understand one another.” explains Browne and highlights the upsides of such meetings.
It may sound like a complete mess at first, but if you think about it, it makes sense. As we mentioned before, good communication between operatives and management is vital for a company’s success.
A short and sweet catch-up at the beginning of each day wouldn’t cause too much fatigue, wouldn’t it? It’s actually quite useful to make sure everyone knows what’s on their to-do list for the day.
Laura Hall of Helio recommends fitting these meetings into your schedule as they have multiple benefits. “Having a quick 5-10 minute meeting every day with your team is a great way to ensure everyone is on the same page and communication is consistent. This also helps improve productivity as each person has the opportunity to share their wins, struggles and items for action to enable them to perform to the best of their ability. It also keeps the team accountable to themselves, and one another, which is so important as accountability is the glue that ties commitment to the result.”
Niles Koenigsberg of Real FiG Advertising + Marketing even has a set of questions you can apply right away – to your next morning check-in meeting with your team.
“Daily check-ins help ensure that the skills of your team members are being fully utilized in the best ways possible and the meetings help make sure nothing slips through the cracks of your production workflows. Give it a try tomorrow with your team and ask everyone around the table the same four questions:
Those daily meetings will keep things running smoothly at your organization and help improve communication between your team members.” concludes Koenigsberg.
Now that you know what types of team meetings are valuable for your company, let’s dig into those that hold little value and are too time-consuming. These meetings may easily be replaced with some other form of communication or skipped altogether. Check them out.
The most common type of team meetings that could have been emails are these – status update meetings. There is no need for people to sit in an office for an hour listening to status updates that they could easily read about in an email.
Stephanie Young of Best Camping says that “by being strategic about the types of meetings you arrange, you may avoid having needless meetings. Meetings should not be used for updates or information dissemination that can be handled more efficiently through other means, such as email.”
Is the meeting going to have the same outcome even if you’re not there? If so, maybe you can skip it and focus on doing something more productive.
“You should attend a meeting when you think that your presence will affect the output, or you will gain knowledge by being there. Ask yourself, “Do I get the chance to put my point of view, or I get to sit idle?” If the meeting doesn’t meet the above two points, I suggest you not attend.” advises Mudassir Ahmed of ShoutoutStreet.
And this tip applies even if you’re invited. “Just because you’re on the meeting list doesn’t mean you should attend it.” says Chandra Prakash of Digimiles. “If possible, talk to your meeting moderator and identify if you have anything to present or you play a role in any decisions to be made. If the moderator confirms that your presence would make no effect except the attendance, ask to be excused from the meeting. This way, you can focus on achieving your targets and being productive.”
Also, by having a client tracking dashboard built it makes it easy for everyone to be kept updated on the status of individual client projects without the need to attend meetings they are not needed.
Alex Birkett of Jarvis says every meeting should have a clear goal and value. “You’ve got to ask yourself (and be honest), “what’s the value of this meeting?” And if it’s not obvious, chop it. You can always add it back on your calendar in the future.”
Olivia Tan of CocoFax also recommends skipping the meetings that have no clear objectives, even if they’re in your schedule.
In fact, companies that schedule too many fixed meetings ahead may be wasting their time. “I believe that attending a meeting is helpful only if you are trying to expand your business activities. Another scenario is when you are facing a big problem that needs a quick solution. Any other meeting that does not have a clear objective is a waste of time,” says Tan.
“Some businesses have fixed meetings throughout the year. This system won’t help them as they already planned a meeting without even having a proper reason. In our company, we focus on improving our productivity by avoiding all the unnecessary team meetings. As a simple rule, we do not focus on scheduled meetings.”
Editor’s note: To understand how things are going, you shouldn’t have to wait for a reporting meeting, or have your whole team scramble to manually build a scorecard each week. Use Databox Scorecards instead to send or receive updates on your KPIs through email, mobile push notification, and/or Slack every day, week, or month.
Now that you know which meetings you should organize, how do you make them as effective as possible?
Here are eight actionable tips from our experts that can help you reduce meeting time and boost meeting productivity.
Daniel Foley of Daniel Foley SEO recommends setting a strict time limit as meetings sometimes tend to turn into a never-ending chat.
“Your employees’ time is valuable, so keep the meeting to one hour or less if possible. And, even if the agenda item isn’t finished, end the meeting on time. When you set firm time limitations for meetings, employees can better arrange their workday around them, knowing that they will be released on time. Additionally, meeting planners will be forced to limit their agendas to only the most important themes.” says Foley. Easily track the length of time spent attending meetings using this employee time tracking dashboard.
Best Tool’s Adam Harris tries to create a clear agenda for his meetings and distribute it in advance so everyone knows what they’re in for.
The agenda should “state the meeting’s purpose and expected outcomes” says Harris, and adds: “Make sure there are only a few action and discussion items on the agenda. This meeting agenda will keep the meeting on track and allow you to stay within the allotted time.”
“Allow employees to reject attendance without facing repercussions,” advises Lisa Merchant of Best Card. “You might emphasize the importance of the meeting if it is critical and attendance is required. Work with an employee to identify the best solution if they have prior engagements that take precedence.”
“Smaller meetings stimulate more participation from employees, so keeping the number of individuals in each meeting to a minimum is a smart idea,” explains Robert E. Henry of Best Coffee.
“While keeping your meeting cap between seven and nine people is preferable, your meeting cap will ultimately be determined by the size of your team. Only inviting the required parties to meetings is an excellent strategy to keep them small. Employees who were not invited will appreciate fewer meetings, and those who do go will certainly benefit from a more productive meeting.”
Vanessa Dyer of The Magickal Cat reminds that starting on time is vital as it respects your own time and other people’s schedules.
“Always begin the meeting on schedule, and do not allow attendees to participate after 15 minutes have passed.” says Dyer and adds: “Don’t waste time telling latecomers what they missed. If you make it a practice to start meetings on time, your employees will make it a routine to join meetings on time as well. This keeps the meeting on track and allows you to stick to your schedule.”
Naomi Bishop of Surfky says you need to keep the attendees under control by moderating the conversation. It’s your job as the meeting host to keep the meeting on its tracks “by avoiding allowing individual attendees to dominate the conversation or repeating what’s previously been stated. Other options for sharing content in meetings include brainstorming alternatives, presentations, and the use of media and technology.”
Best Kids’ Kate Libby says the whole point of a meeting is for you to be able to do something with what’s been said. “Ensure that decisions taken during the meeting have precise and concrete follow-up activities, including who is responsible and accountable for each item.” says Libby. “This clarity will help your meeting have a purpose and will put your company in the best possible position to succeed. Employees will be more prepared for the next meeting if after-meeting action items are created since they will be able to report on their progress or findings.”
Editor’s note: With Databox, you can display your performance to goals on a TV on your office wall to keep your team focused on needle-moving activities. Monitor performance to goal in meetings and on conference calls using your browser. Or send your goal progress to yourself or team members via email, Slack, or mobile push notification.
The most important conclusions from a meeting deserve to be noted down. Those who participated can get back to them if they need a reminder, and those who missed the meeting have a chance to catch up.“Make it obvious to employees that if several essential details are mentioned at the meeting, you will be disseminating the information after the meeting,” says Best Cat’s Michelle Mayers. “Employees will be freed from taking comprehensive meeting notes, allowing them to participate more fully in the discussion. Don’t forget to submit the follow-up information after the meeting.”
Gathering your team around a table can only be effective if you have a clear goal of the meeting. Do you want to give them feedback on their previous project, brainstorm some fresh ideas and perspectives, or talk about their professional development plans? These are great reasons to pick a time slot in your schedule and set up a meeting with an employee or your whole team.
However, there are also situations when an email is more appropriate, or when you should excuse someone for not attending a meeting for the sake of their productivity and more important tasks.
The key is, apparently, to hit the balance. Thanks to our expert tips, you’ll know exactly when to cancel a meeting and spend your time more efficiently, and when to schedule a meeting and spend valuable time with your team members.
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