Optimising meetings: Stronger, better, fewer

by HCA10 Sep 2013

Meetings are a hallmark of corporate culture. Ray Williams, author of The Leadership Edge, stated that executives and managers spend 40-50% of their time in meetings.

This increase in meetings has resulted in the working week expanding, Williams wrote in Psychology Today. In turn, meetings then become longer – even if work isn’t being done.

Instead, Williams suggests decreasing the number and length of meetings. “We have a limited amount of cognitive or what they call ‘executive’ resources,” Williams stated. “Once they get depleted, we make bad decisions or choices. Business meetings require people to commit, focus and make decisions, with little or no attention paid to the depletion of the finite cognitive resources of the participants … the three or four hour project meetings may be counterproductive.”

A common suggestion is the creation of ‘No Meetings Wednesdays’. However, banishing a day of meetings altogether can prove problematic if a situation calls for one. Instead, many experts suggest meetings must simply be streamlined and optimised in order to gain the most out of them and reduce the necessity of having multiple meetings on the same issue.


Key HR takeaways
Dr Ken Hudson, author of The Idea Generator, gave HC a number of tips on how to improve meetings, including:

  • Short daily meetings vs longer weekly ones: Encourage faster meetings – have people stand instead of sit, highlight the achievements over the last day and run through what needs to be done. These ‘huddles’ get everyone involved, ensure they all have a firm grasp on what they need to be doing, and should only run for 10-15 minutes.
  • Change standard times: Most people use electronic calendars through Outlook or other services. By default, these generally set appointments to one hour blocks. Start double-checking this, and schedule meetings – for instance – to run for half an hour instead. This will dispense with long intros and idle chat, focusing the shorter meeting on the issues at hand.
  • Make the agenda flexible: Keep meetings open for questions and allow staff to share ideas. Don’t get side-tracked, but stay focused on the outcome more than how you get there – you may find that a quicker and more insightful path to a result blossoms from one participant raising an idea not strictly on the agenda.
  • Establish the purpose: When organising the meeting, make it clear to all what needs to be discussed. As obvious as it sounds, many meetings fall apart because the participants are not clear on what they are trying to achieve. This may also help you determine if a meeting is necessary – if you struggle to pinpoint a goal, maybe you should just send off an email.
  • Measure effectiveness:  Review your meetings and analyze what works and what doesn’t. You may also wish to survey those who attended the meeting and get their feedback.


  • by Ed Robins (Pro-Focus Training) 10/09/2013 3:47:10 PM

    Good thoughts!
    The review point is really important. I have people evaluate every meeting on (1) process and (2) outcomes. You get quick improvement in both areas as a result.

  • by Linda 11/09/2013 8:18:43 AM

    I also insist on starting meetings promptly and not waiting for latecomers. As well, setting an end time at the outset helps people to focus on the purpose of the meeting and dispense with 'add on' irrelevant matters.

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