You’ve Got to Stop Meeting Like This

By Christine Neuberger

The average manager spends 17 hours each week in meetings and invests another six hours weekly in preparing for meetings. But, get this: only 56 percent of the meetings are productive according to the Wharton Center for Applied Research. In other words, managers waste more than 15 hours each week – or 60 hours a month – attending and preparing for meaningless meetings. No wonder there’s so much buzz about how to make meetings more productive, how to reduce time spent in meetings and how to get more done in less time. If you’re ready to make your gatherings more effective, Patricia Haddock offers some tips in “The Time Management Workshop” (AMACOM, 2001):

  • Meetings should last no more than 90 minutes. If the program must run longer, include activities and breaks frequently.
  • Want to improve punctuality? Begin meetings on the quarter hour – 9:15 a.m., for example – or another odd time instead of at 9 a.m. sharp.
  • Don’t meet in the late afternoon. “This is not a good idea since most people hit an energy low between 2:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m.”
  • Meeting on the day before a holiday or a weekend is another bad idea. People will have their minds on the impending time off more than work.
  • Invite only people essential to the gathering. Consider such issues as their potential contribution and whether they can just drop in for their agenda item.
  • Send long documents ahead of time. Don’t require people to read volumes at a meeting.
  • Do you want participation? Avoid a classroom setup. The U-shape setup works well for most gatherings.
  • Use visual aids. Why? Research indicates presentations are 43 percent more effective when visual aids are used. But keep them simple and easy to read. Use talking points.