Meetings have increased in length and frequency over the past 50 years, to the point where executives spend an average of nearly 23 hours a week in them, up from less than 10 hours in the 1960s. And that doesn’t even include the impromptu exchanges that punctuate a typical work day. Plus, hybrid workplaces make it more challenging to schedule face-to-face meetings, while remote meetings require tools and skills that weren’t nearly so important just a few years ago. But the old business adage of a crisis also being an opportunity is true: As businesses move forward, the entire concept of meetings is evolving and changing. The challenge they face is to keep pace or risk getting swamped in meeting madness.
Why traditional meetings are a waste of time
Researchers from Harvard Business School and Boston University surveyed 182 senior managers across industries, and the results are telling: 65% of senior managers said meetings keep them from completing their own work, 71% found them to be unproductive and inefficient, and 62% stated that meetings miss opportunities to bring teams closer together.
Elon Musk is widely quoted as saying that meetings happen when people aren’t working. Still, he’s open to brief exchanges as long as they’re beneficial for everyone involved. “Walk out of a meeting or drop off a call as soon as it is obvious you aren’t adding value,” he reportedly told Tesla employees. “It is not rude to leave, it is rude to make someone stay and waste their time.”
Those issues have been compounded in increasingly common hybrid workplaces, as “virtual meetings” can often be fraught with technical mishaps of all varieties. The old adage holds true: If it can be summarized in an email, there shouldn’t be a meeting about it.
How meetings are changing today
Meetings have undergone a transformation in the last decade or so, mainly due to advances in technology that enable communication at any time. Recent trends show that as younger generations continue to enter the workforce, advancing technology is integrating with them. In 2016, millennials became the largest segment in the US labor force at 35%, meaning they’re also now the largest pool of potential meeting attendees. They want meeting agendas that are both fluid and focused, agitating for more control over meeting agendas. The new generation of meeting attendees is thriving on meetings with meaning, innovation, and insight.
Software, apps, and similar tools can enable these new meeting trends more readily. And forward-thinking companies are finding ways to harness and enhance that by ditching traditional meetings in favor of a far more streamlined and effective process.
Expert tip: Evernote Expert Neil Maxfield says, “Don’t let a day pass by without reviewing what you need to take forward. Each evening, without fail, check the content from the day (emails, notes, etc.), send the critical bits to Evernote, and attach relevant content to future meetings using the calendar widget in Home.”
Information visibility + collaboration = no meetings
As different team members spread out, and remote-work options become increasingly common, it gets harder and harder to set specific times for unified meetings. Laboring to maintain the old standard is taxing at best. On the other hand, an “asynchronous” approach to meetings—delivering the needed information in a centralized location, with the interactivity to quickly make additions and adjustments—allows everyone to collaborate, even if they’re in different time zones with radically different working hours.
But that doesn’t happen overnight. It requires careful planning and execution, along with the right tools for the job. Asynchronous meetings must provide maximum visibility for all participants, as well as collaborative features that ensure everyone’s contributions are seen and heard. By applying the principles of highly-focused and productive meetings, you can achieve similarly effective results:
- State the desired outcomes clearly and develop a sound plan of how to get there.
- Prepare points to be discussed, share these with the team, and encourage input.
- Consolidate information in one central hub.
- Assign a team member to each action item and provide a deadline and list of task execution expectations.
- Give every team member an opportunity to provide feedback.
- Schedule check-in times and set reminders to help the team stay on track and meet deadlines.
Power tip: Spaces in Evernote Teams make information accessible to everyone who needs it, along with the ability to add notes and make adjustments. This facilitates more effective collaboration and, most crucially, eliminates the need for yet another meeting. Hosting the relevant project data in one virtual space means your team can check in and make updates no matter where they are, anytime they want, and from any device.
Move past meeting misery
Meetings are a vital part of team management; there is simply no easier way to get everyone on the same page about a given issue than meeting face-to-face and discussing it. That said, only a focused, well-organized meeting will produce results. Teams can benefit immensely if they focus their energies on transforming meetings instead of just tolerating them.