Let’s talk about meetings


In 2018 I was shown some figures that stated the global cost of meetings is £1trillion. Fifty percent of meetings are unproductive, wasting £500 billion annually. The UK accounts for 10% of the global cost of meetings. Thirty million people employed in the UK hold 10 million meeting each day, at a cost of £400 million daily. That’s £100 billion annually. So, with 50% of meetings being unproductive, the UK is wasting £200m daily or £50 billion annually. That’s 2.5% of GDP – that’s obscene.

More recently, in Doodle’s 2019 State of Meetings report, the cost of poorly organised meetings in 2019 is predicted to reach $399 billion in the US and $58 billion in the UK. So, things certainly don’t seem to be getting any better!

Why are we so bad at meetings? It’s not like meetings are a new concept. We’ve been organising and attending meetings forever!

So, what actually classes as a meeting? According to the Oxford English Dictionary a meeting is “an assembly of people for a particular purpose, especially for formal discussion”. Maybe that sounds about right. It appears to be organised and structured, talking about purpose and discussion. OED also defines a meeting as “a situation when two or more people meet, by chance or arrangement”. By chance doesn’t sound very organised or structured, does it? Maybe that isn’t a good description for corporate meetings. Or is it?

Irrespective of how we define a meeting, we should acknowledge that, in the main, we are pretty rubbish at meetings. As humans we pride ourselves on our ability to adapt, to do things better over time, to learn by experience. So why do we find it so hard to become good at meetings?

We should be way past expecting a natural evolution in our ability to run meetings. Simply, that is not going to happen. Desperate times call for desperate measures. We need a meeting revolution!

We need a “Meeting Tool Kit”. We need to acknowledge there is not a “one size fits all” approach to meetings. We need to be flexible and agile in how we deal with meetings. We need to learn to use the tools at our disposal. We need to know when it is best to meet in person, when it is better to meet remotely and what are the best tools to use to ensure great meeting experiences. We need to know how to plan great meetings, how to set the objectives and measure outcomes, how to identify the correct participants (yes – participants), and how to deliver meetings that have value to the organisation and the participants. We need to be prepared to measure meeting efficiency and effectiveness, and to be measured. We need to be accountable!

Rubbish meetings need to become a thing of the past. They waste corporate time and money and, importantly, rubbish meetings waste people’s time and have a negative impact on how they feel, and how they engage.

Let’s take responsibility for improving the meeting experience, for everyone. Let’s make good choices in terms of why we are meeting, how we are meeting, who is involved, and what we will achieve. Let’s mix face to face meetings with remote meetings, let’s embrace technology and tools. Let’s get comfortable with structured and unstructured meetings, formal and informal meetings. Let’s create a culture of communication and collaboration. Let’s adopt a new approach to meetings. Let’s learn to be good at meetings. It’s time for a revolution.

How good is your company at great meetings?

Ali Hawksworth

Ali Hawksworth

Envisioning lead and Future of Work visionary for Adoptt. Identifying and resolving the big workplace problems that are ‘hiding in plain sight’. Preparing and equipping the leadership teams of partners, customers and vendors to survive and thrive in a world of digital disruption.

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