Meetings: we attend too many and talk too much

Posted by Nanna Manbjerg Rasmussen
on January 20, 2016

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Meetings are characterised by being to many and containing too much small talk, says Ib Ravn, Associate Professor at Aarhus University who does research on meetings and meeting culture.

This is the first in a series of three posts based on an interview with Ib Ravn. Read on and learn how to make your meetings more efficient.


A challenging task

The biggest challenge around meetings is the amount of irrelevant talk, says Ib Ravn. In some cases the leader is behind it, in other cases, it is the attendees who talk too much. Nevertheless, the consequences are the same, the meeting drags on and doesn't acheieve all of it's goals. Having an eye on the time being spent in meetings can make them more efficient. Very often, organizations can make do with the "weekly" meeting being held every other week, and the one-hour meeting being reduced to half an hour or 45 minutes.


Reduce the time you spend in meetings

When cutting down in time the role of the chairperson is essential. It is his or her responsibility to stop small-talk and discussions that drag out between the participants. Also there are examples showing that the chairperson takes up too much time talking. That could be, when delivering information about the latest decisions made by the board. In this case, it is up to the attendees to tell the chairperson, that the meeting and information are not relevant for them.

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Notifications of meetings must be reduced

According to Ib Ravn, a solution to cutting down the time can be, to tighten up the procedures around both receiving and sending out notifications of a meeting.


“It is often seen that managers send out notifications of a meeting to a number of additional attendees, as they do not want to exclude anyone. But the employee who receives the notification might not want to seem unfriendly by turning down the invitation, and as a result she ends up attending a meeting that is not relevant, and she feels unwanted.”


Are you aware of the amount of time you spend in meetings every week?
 

Improve communication

There is too much left unspoken between the manager and the participants of the meeting. The manager should bring up the subject, and state to the employees that it is accepted to stay away from meetings. Also the attendees should take a turn and deselect meetings when being busy or not having anything to offer for a specific meeting. Furthermore, the manager should be aware, that employees often feel relieved if they can skip a meeting.
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Recreate the good meeting

Many meetings and items on the agenda can be cut away, when evaluating what was accomplished at the meeting. But meetings can, and should, be more than wasted time. It should be a place where you meet up in a team and feel that you achieve valuable goals, the meeting could even be a place where you get your weekly fix of motivation. Unfortunately, attendees often are absent-minded glancing out the window and thinking about shopping lists, while hours pass by. The outcome of the meeting depends on the role of the chairperson.


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Topics: Meeting Culture, Productivity