Duration too long, participants too numerous or inadequately chosen, a sleepy ambiance: we sometimes have the feeling, throughout the years, that meetings have become the evil of this century. Some people even recommend to permanently remove them. Nobody wants to (re)live a three hours afternoon meeting, leading to nothing but a solid decision…that the decision will have to be taken during the next meeting…However, meetings do still show merits.

Stop the acute mania of meetings

A study of the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute confirms it: meetings at work may decrease the intelligence quotient of the people concerned. While googling statistics and studies about meetings, it is very easy to confirm that holding meetings in their traditional way is disapproved, although it’s a long-lasting habit in companies.

Time-consuming, provoking mental attrition, and above all, leading to no decisions afterwards: meetings could be considered “has been”. There is little doubt that you already attended one of them, during which some protagonists email, text or lunch. These forms of parasitism prove the desacralization of meetings as time goes by. Having said so, how could we blame them for their will to save time during their workday? The number of weekly meetings has moved from 3 in 2016 to 3.5 in 2018 for managers. In average, they spend 27 days per year in meetings!

Meetings are a great invention

It would be inappropriate to suppress meetings totally, as some start-ups are claiming to do so. Meetings have some merits. It’s for sure, at today, an efficient solution to lead a project with a team.

It enables first a rapid communication between the different actors. A good discussion and sharing ideas have always been more constructive than a long chain of boring or unfriendly emails, in which everybody sticks to their position. It’s as well less time-consuming, when dialogue starts quickly, reducing processing times or answering times. The free flow of ideas is more constructive than individual propositions. “There is more light and wisdom in many men gathered than in one”, said Alexis de Tocqueville.

Swiftness in exchanging and sincerity in relation are decision enablers, in concertation: an essential element in a healthy project management. Co-construction is the key.

Make your meetings constructive: prepare them and learn how to animate them

Professionalism is required to correct meetings inefficiency.

Most of employees and managers underline the lack of preparation as a cause of their sterile meetings. Agree on a meeting agenda, with clear targets. Privilege a restrictive team, rather than inviting the whole floor as a pretext not to offend sensibilities. Get training on meeting animation and group dynamics. Do not leave aside the past-meeting period: at the latest 24 hours after, share the meeting minutes and its conclusions, particularly for persons concerned who could not attend it. Finally, do allocate time to each subject, and limit the meeting duration. It’s proved that we are less creative and constructive after 90 minutes in the same room, talking about different subjects with the same persons.

At last, take care of your own doubts or interrogations: a meeting can be stressful, for example if you’re not comfortable speaking to a group. Remember that you are part of the company as a project contributor and that you’ve earned your place. To create your own bubble of trust, different techniques are available. A simple solution? A few minutes of a deep breathing exercise.