Did you know that there are over 11 million formal meetings held every day in America? According to a study conducted by the University of Arizona, that comes to more than 3 billion meetings per year. Most managers spend an estimated 20% of their working hours in formal meetings of five or more people. A meeting between several executive leaders may run a firm over $1000 per hour or more in salary costs alone. Ineffective or unproductive meetings could cost Fortune 50 companies losses of more than $75 million per year.
A New York consulting firm, Communispond, Inc., conducted a survey of 471 management leaders and found that well over one-half of the managers surveyed considered most meetings to be a “waste of time.” Almost 90% recognized the failure of most meetings to be due to a “lack of advanced planning and organization,” and over 75% of those polled pointed out that they received no proper training on how to conduct a meeting in the first place.
If you’re looking for answers on how to make executive meetings more productive, it’s important to understand the top seven reasons why executive meetings fail:
- Lack of a goal or objective. If you’re unclear on what you need to achieve in the meeting, the end results of the meeting will also be loose-ended. Establish a purpose or objective for the meeting. This way you know what to expect as a proposed outcome. Clearly identify the issues you want to resolve or discuss and what you want to achieve.
- Not preparing an agenda beforehand. Not preparing a meeting agenda in advance can lead to a meeting that lacks focus. With your goal in mind, prepare and distribute an agenda with the objectives outlined to the participants of the meeting. Request them to read this in advance. This makes the most efficient use of time as they don’t have to skim through the agenda in the meeting itself and it also gives them a chance to think through and make their own individual preparations ahead of time.
- No facilitator and mote taker roles assigned. Without someone to lead the meeting and someone to take notes, the meeting can go in any direction and waste precious time. Learn how to delegate effectively and determine who’s going to be in charge of facilitating the meeting and who’s going to be taking notes prior to the meeting. Both of these individuals will be responsible for issuing the minutes of the meeting. Different participants can take on these roles in future meetings.
- No start and end times established. A meeting can go on for hours if you don’t set a fixed time for it to finish. Respect those who got to the table on time and start (even if others are late). Don’t start over when others arrive, and end the meeting on time. You’ll be surprised on how much you can accomplish in shorter, speedier meetings than long meetings that seem to go on forever.
- Using technology ineffectively. Using technology for the sake of using it can lead to an unproductive outcome. There are just so many ways to conduct meetings today–everything from PowerPoint presentations to webinars and white boards to video conferencing. A flip chart, a black marker and post-it notes might be all you need to get the interactive participation you need to make the meeting a success.
- Unorganized discussions. Many meetings deviate from the agenda and focus on other issues. Although those issues might be equally important, it’s the facilitator’s job to stick to the agenda and keep the meeting on track. Remember, your aim is to make sure you maintain clear and effective communication to resolve or discuss the goal you started out with.
- Not assigning deliverables and following up. Failing to recap and assign responsibilities at the end of the meeting makes the entire goal of the meeting pointless. Follow up by sending out the minutes of the meeting with the assigned deliverables and timelines. Make participants accountable by scheduling a short follow-up meeting to track whether everyone is going in the right direction to meet the objectives.
If you really want to understand how to make executive meetings a productive success, start by finding a solid facilitator or take the lead yourself to encourage participants to be open to adhering with the organizational improvements you suggest.
Once you know how to organize and run a meeting the next step is to understand how to express yourself in meetings and how to disagree at meetings in a positive and productive way.