In a survey of HR Managers reported by NBC News, Business Meetings ranked eight of ten of the biggest time wasters at work at 26%. But, TimeDoctor surveyed employees and reported 37% felt part or all of meetings wasted their time. Specifically, 96% missed meetings, 91% daydreamed, 95% missed part of meetings, 75% did other work during meetings, and 39% dozed off.
As with many things in business, this is a management problem. It does waste time, creates cost, proves ineffective, and creates animosity if not managed right.
For one thing, the meeting requires a clearly articulated purpose:
- Decisions: The meeting intends to solicit member input and vote on a business decision. So, it’s important that members respect inputs and consider options thoroughly before voting.
- Informative: Members are invited to listen to a management decision on policy, practice, mission, and so on. Such meetings deserve attention and input as requested. For example, BizMerlin’s Optimal Allocation & Financial Management is one tool that provides the reports to discuss and, thereby, reduce the personal conflicts.
- Changes: Management will call meetings to announce significant changes in the company’s position. The changes might reflect a reorganization, redirection, or reconfiguration of the business. The meeting may or may not encourage members to participate with input or questions.
- Resolution: If management finds itself hampered by conflicts between executives or operations or workforce and labor union, the meeting has an agenda of high seriousness, and members should appear and participate with preparation with respect to reconciling the differences.
- Problem-solving: Smart managers will use meetings to solve critical organizational problems. If the meeting is called to solicit employee advice or feedback, the participants should listen well and contribute enthusiastically without personal bias.
- Assessment: Meetings often review processes and previous decisions. Participants may be expected to bring data and reports, ready suggestions, and willingness to consider options in the interest of improving the process. Reports like those generated by BizMerlin’s Smart Asset Management can help.
- Recognition: Leadership may call meetings to recognize and reward achievement of individuals or teams. All participants are expected to share in the praise and celebration.
- Interview: Some leaders will schedule meetings to participate in the interview of a job candidate, a vendor, or key stakeholder or customer. The occasion raises expectations for members’ respect.
Regardless of meeting purpose, EffectiveMeetings.com recommends that business meetings should promote democracy, not monarchy. “Watch out for other participants in the meeting trying to take control. Hijacking a meeting is a cherished corporate game, but a nasty one. It’s your job as a leader to prevent that from happening.” It follows that participates are expected to be collaborative participants.
But, management can run better meetings by pushing meeting responsibilities to the participants. There are good meeting etiquettes, and it is management’s job to communicate and enforce them.
The top 6 meeting behaviors
1. RSVP: When someone calls a formal business meeting, those invited should respond and acknowledge that they will be there. If not, they should offer an explanation.
Why? The meeting planner may have a specific role for you to play or may want you to witness or contribute to a discussion on an issue.
2. Timeliness: A big problem with meeting agendas is their inability to start on time. It’s slippery slope, careless, and disrespectful when members arrive at will.
When latecomers enter the meeting, they disrupt the flow of the discussion, and they never seem to enter quietly. Other members see some arrogance in their assumption that the latecomers’ time is somehow more important. If there is a legitimate reason for the tardiness, you should let the meeting chair know ahead of time, so s/he can prepare the participants for your arrival.
3. Preparation: If you are to speak on the agenda, you should have your contribution ready. If it will facilitate the presentation, you should prepare handouts, worksheets, or communication aids. If the time permits, you can share the materials with the meeting facilitator.
As for other participants, you should bring what’s expected of you, silence any electronics, and know the agenda.
4. Attitude: Leaders and members have a need for and right to your optimism and eager participation. A meeting is no place for doom and gloom let alone sarcasm and cynicism.
Bad attitude wastes and disrespects the time and work of others, so leave it at the door. And, remember that the positive attitude shows in body language that leans in, listens, and speaks when invited to.
5. Language: Meetings should be professional which expects you to choose your words carefully, avoiding anything that is personal or condescending. You should avoid slang and jargon specific to your field that others may not understand.
There is no reason to bring politics and religion into meeting discussions, and the meeting room is no place for gossip or water-cooler talk.
6. No talk over: A meeting should have an agenda and timeframe. Interrupting people is impolite and prolongs the discussion. Talking over others is rude, unproductive, and distracting.
In fact, it is better behavior to defer time and talk to the more senior ranking participants.
What are good meeting etiquettes?
This review covers general concerns that may change if you are talking about a meeting of international parties or on a legal matter. But, they are fitting behaviors for most business meetings.
Meetings take on another dimension if you are the key presenter or meeting facilitator. Such roles have their own rules and expectations.
But, heads-up leaders will, early in their appointment, make clear what they want in meetings. If it is clear from the beginning that tardiness will not be tolerated, that respectful listening is the rule, and positive attitude is a core value, meetings will run better and productively.