Tired of Unproductive Meetings? Me Too.

If you’re at all like me, nothing can be as frustrating as sitting through a meeting that should have only taken about 20 min., but is still going after an hour. I really find that meetings can be one of the easiest places to waste time so I thought I should rant about this for a minute and then maybe suggest how meetings can be made more productive in my experience. Things that drive me crazy about meetings:
  1. Person in charge of meeting isn’t prepared so I get to sit there while they make small talk to fill time.
  2. There is no agenda for the meeting so I don’t know what we are going to be talking about, nor does anyone else.
  3. When a meeting is scheduled for an hour in the first place when everyone knows it should only take 20 min.
  4. When the person in charge turns the time over to someone that just goes on and on about nothing and doesn’t take back the control soon enough.
  5. When there is a group of about 8 people in a meeting trying to make a decision, but the person in charge that is really making the decision won’t make a decision so then the process goes on and on and on and on.
  6. Leaving a meeting without a list of to do’s or objectives.
  7. Listening to stories about last weeks ski trip, movie date, sushi experience, etc.
  8. Not starting the meeting on time.
  9. When someone comes in late to a meeting and the person in charge stops the meeting to recap everything that was said so far so the person that was late didn’t miss anything…uuuuggggg!
This list can go on for much longer, but I’ll stop now. Strategies that can help make meetings more productive.
  1. Be prepared — if each meeting attendee is supposed to have read a document or contract so it can be signed, or reviewed then by all means, please have done it so you don’t waste everyone’s time.
  2. Have an agenda and stick to it. This will help you stay on task through the meeting and help you come out of the meeting with results showing what was covered.
  3. Start the meeting on-time. In rare instances you will need to wait to start a meeting, but in most cases if you start on-time and don’t stop for people who are late you will be more productive.
  4. Set the appropriate meeting length from the get go. If you think it should only take 30 min. to cover a top, don’t schedule the meeting for 1 hour just because a 1 hour time slot is what your calendar default is set to.
  5. Have someone in the meeting take notes regarding what assignments have been handed out and who is going to be in charge of that task.
  6. Don’t be afraid to cut someone off if you are in charge of keeping this meeting on time. Let them know you appreciate their comments and that you would like to discuss it with them in private after the meeting, or that you want them to send an email regarding it instead of continuing to discuss it in the meeting.
  7. Appoint a time-keeper that interrupts saying things like…it has now been 20 min., it has now been 30 min., etc. This will help people think…let’s move on.
  8. If you are in charge of the meeting and you no longer need someone there, turn to them and say, “If you would like to go you can leave now because we’ve covered the elements we needed you here for.” This way, they can leave and you can move on in your meeting.
  9. Let everyone know that you will be ending the meeting at X time and then end the meeting at that time.
  10. Send out a follow-up email with a list of topics discussed and assignments so each person can review and work on what they need to do.
There you have it. Hopefully if I stick to his list of strategies than I will have more productive meetings this year and spend less time thinking to myself, “if I have to sit here for one more minute I’m going to kill myself.” If you have useful tips or funny thoughts on what drives you crazy during meeting, please share. Thanks!

6 thoughts on “Tired of Unproductive Meetings? Me Too.

  1. Trevor says:

    I can’t tell you how many TERRIBLE meetings I’ve sat through that didn’t observe some of these simple concepts. And you’re absolutely right- it’s one of the biggest places for management to sit and waste time! I think you even find some people that are fairly inexperienced (as far as management or meetings go) enjoying the fact that they’re sitting in a meeting, and because it makes them feel like they’re important, they’d rather gratify their pride by staying longer and doing nothing than getting things done.

  2. Mat Siltala says:

    Great post Andy! One of the main reasons I left the last job I had, and decided to do things on my own was for this very reason. I hate meetings, never liked them, never will. I realize there is a need for meetings, and for that reason – people should read this post.

  3. Jon Barker says:

    I JUST got done with my first day of school this semester. Want to talk about a waste of time? Two classes today, both each an hour long and both covered the same thing. I have another two classes tomorrow – both different classes – where I am sure the same things will be said. How come people just can’t email out the notes, students come with questions, ask them and then everyone leaves? 20 min tops! Or how about use that extra 40 min to teach a class!! FAAAAA!!!!

  4. Andrew Melchior says:

    @Jon Barker
    What’s even better is when the “professor” is a grad student that is foreign and can barely speak English. I had a class like this and the “professor” would seriously read from the book for 3 hours along with following his PPT. When a student asked a questions he couldn’t understand the question so he would just move on. It was a really great class!

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