Meetings are held to provide information, discuss something face to face, or take a decision. Whether it’s a new idea or opportunity, a problem, or brainstorming something, the idea is that face to face interaction will foster discussion and feedback. Meeting transcription captures the conversations for future reference. However, useful as they are, meetings can be a “productivity killer”. Too many meetings or over-attended meetings – referred to as meeting bloat – don’t produce any meaningful results and lead to a lot of wasted time. Reducing meeting bloat can improve productivity and promote employee engagement. Here are six tips to do away with meeting bloat:
- Invite only those who need to attend: Having too many people at a meeting is a waste of time. Also, it’s difficult to have a meaningful discussion when there are a large number of participants. People may hesitate to share their opinions or become impatient as they wait for their turn to speak. Based on the purpose and outcomes, go by the following criteria to assess who needs to attend the meeting:
- Those who have the necessary expertise and information about matters to be discussed
- Those who will be directly affected by the discussion and decisions reached
- Those who have to be kept informed about the matter
- Those who need to quickly take action on things discussed or decided
Intelligent managers will adjust the size of the meeting based on the meeting’s purpose. In a recent enterprisers project.com article, Dr. Steven Rogelberg, chancellor’s professor and director of organizational science at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, recommends seven or fewer as the ideal group size for decision-making and problem-solving, eight to 12 attendees if the leader has outstanding facilitation skills, and fewer than fifteen individuals for idea generation, agenda setting, and huddles. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos employs the two-pizza-rule: never have a meeting where two pizzas couldn’t feed the entire group.
- Ensure the meeting is timely and relevant: Most of the times, meetings involve routine updates. In this case, not everyone would need to participate at the same time. An ideal strategy would be to create virtual space where participants can share information and updates (www.mitel.com).
- Inform attendees about the meeting purpose and their role: Attendees should be informed in advance about the aim of the meeting, their role, and the expected meeting outcomes. Informing them about the agenda and what questions will be answered will help attendees seeking specific information. Potential participants can decide if they need to attend or not. Attendees who are decision makers should be informed that a decision will be made, and asked to fill the gap if any input is not in the agenda. Attendees who contribute only one item in the agenda can leave the meeting after their part is done. This can cut meeting bloat and promote smaller, more productive events.
Bloated in terms of meetings, Dropbox employed such strategies with great results (www.inc.com). The company’s internal website recommends that employees invited to meetings ask themselves, “Do I really need to be here?” If people go to a meeting and find their presence is not needed, they encouraged to leave: “If you find yourself on your phone or laptop during a meeting, that’s a good sign that you’re neither deriving nor contributing value to the meeting and that it might be worth reconsidering.”
- Evaluate how the meeting will be conducted: Check if an in-person meeting can be changed into a virtual meeting. Video conferencing can save time and money. Consider whether email or a chat can accomplish the same results.
- Re-evaluate the meeting’s purpose: It is necessary to regularly assess the need and effectiveness of your meetings. LinkedIn gives the example of a top IT company that stopped video-conference meetings that had been conducted four hours a week to “monitor progress” of their different projects. The company switched to shared documents where each project owner writes a review with three points: (a) what have we done last week, (b) what we are we planning to do next week, (c) any issues I need help to resolve. Team meetings are conducted only when anyone requires the whole team’s interaction to resolve an issue. Sub-team meetings may be held on the side to deal with the specifics. To test a meeting’s effectiveness, ask what would happen if it wasn’t held? The answer can help you reconsider the meeting’s purpose.
- Shorten meeting length: To cut down meeting time, start on time and end on time. Shorter meetings can also be more productive. First, ensure beforehand that all meetings are planned and purposeful. Once the meeting begins, cut the review – get directly the point of how to achieve the desired goals. Distributing the agenda several days in advance will lets participants know they should come prepared.
Digital transcription agencies help businesses record and document meetings. Reviewing the transcripts will give you an idea about things you can improve. It will help you identify areas where you’re spending too much time, and plan ahead to cut meeting bloat and improve efficiency.