Most business meetings “should” have been an email.
If the company is large and has more stakeholders, the slower and heavier the processes become. This eventually leads to more meetings with less work being done.
A 2012 study shows that companies that held unproductive meetings lost an average of $250,000 annually.
The study’s findings suggest that companies can improve their bottom line by improving the quality of their meetings. This includes clearly defining the purpose of the meeting, setting an agenda, and ensuring that everyone has a chance to participate.
Companies should also be aware of the signs of dysfunctional meeting conduct and take steps to address them.
Here are some specific examples of dysfunctional meeting conduct:
- Personal attacks: This includes making rude or hurtful comments about other participants.
- Side conversations: This includes having conversations with other participants that are not related to the meeting topic.
- Lack of participation: This includes not contributing to the discussion or not paying attention to what is being said.
However, not all meetings are bad. And it is really important to know, as discussed in my previous post and video, that planning the meeting, writing and laying down the agenda, and strategizing can help facilitate a meeting and turn it into an effective venture.
We have discovered that some meetings can become profitable by thinking through the right strategies, brainstorming the right ideas, and coming up with the right opportunities. They can pay off 10X, 20X, or 50X the cost of conducting the meeting, which should be the main purpose of having a meeting in the first place.
Apart from this reason, let’s discuss the other considerations you should have when setting up a meeting instead of having email conversations or discussing in Slack, or in any other business communication platform.
1. Addressing Urgent Matters
Urgent matters are best discussed during meetings. There are some concerns that need to be immediately resolved. Meaning, the longer communication takes, the more you lose money.
For example, if you provide support and you need to coordinate with other people but there is an outage, downtime, or something else going on, of course, it is easy to just knock on the next door and get into a room together in only five seconds and figure out what the problem is. Then, get it solved.
It is going to save you 10-20 minutes or even more as compared to trying to ping other people on Slack and trying to get them instantly available, hoping they are going to see their notifications. If not, you may try to hop on a call, and probably they are not really in their office, and so on.
It adds up the more people needed to be looped in to solve a critical issue or an urgent matter. The same goes for discussing new requirements, campaigns, partnerships, press releases, or something else that happens immediately.
If you are not located in the same location, Zoom is still okay but it does not bring about the same perks that a face-to-face meeting provides.
2. Clarifying Conflicting Thoughts
In some cases, discussing something via text, whether email or instant messaging (IM), may cause people to intercept information incorrectly.
For instance, when discussing with a colleague or team member the new way of doing a task, they could misconstrue it as criticisms on how they do their jobs. Misreading or misunderstanding someone can happen anytime, particularly when you converse outside a structured meeting. Over time, conflicting thoughts may pile up and cause a bigger problem.
In meetings, you have the benefits of expressing your thoughts clearly through your body language, voice, tone, and just your ability actually to have a very quick conversation one-on-one.
3. Simplifying Complex Context
Complicated scenarios discussed over Slack are difficult to absorb and understand.
Meetings simplify complex context by allowing attendees to break down tons of data that are necessary to expound a problem, a question, or an issue. It is easier for both the sender and recipient of the message to present statistics, charts, and trends when done via a meeting.
Information transmitted through asynchronous chats can consume too much of your time if the data is too big to study in one reading. It gets even more challenging when you are discussing immediate correspondence and you cannot afford to confuse your people.
But, if you tackle such information in a meeting, you can avoid ambiguities and go directly straight to the bush.
4. Enforcing Responsibility
Enforcing responsibility among people is easier over meetings.
Meetings provide you an opportunity to request your people to prepare presentations, reports, and questions, as well as the minutes.
If you are equipping people towards a management role or a leadership position or dealing with people on a Performance Improvement Plan, it is easy to teach accountability and responsibility through your meetings. Introduce meetings where they have to actually present in front of people, lead the conversation, or have this audit on their shoulders.
No one wants to show up to a meeting unprepared especially when given special tasks or assignments. So if you want to enforce responsibility and train your people, hold meetings immediately.
5. Seeking Honesty
Not all people are fully comfortable in disclosing their thoughts via chat or email. There are several reasons for that. Of course, if you have a very strong bond with someone, it doesn’t really matter what sort of channel you are going to use.
But if you hear back from HR or from a senior manager that you do not converse often, you are probably going to try to be politically correct all the time or whenever you are being asked via chat or IM. You may not feel as free about laying down your thoughts as you are free in an onsite meetup.
Discussing certain scenarios that need feedback is easier onsite than on recorded conversations or chat logs. You will always consider how you may get in trouble if you are not careful with what you say.
Onsite meetings can make it easier for you to determine whether someone is being honest. For instance, when trying to figure out why a project is delayed, you can do the following in your meeting:
- Understand the issues
- Investigate further the nature of the problem
- Offer help if needed
- Discuss quickly in an hour or less
6. Needing Multiple Brainstorming Sessions.
Brainstorming sessions entail several feedback iterations.
In some cases, the feedback iterations need enough time to unpeel one layer off before you get to the second one, and then down to the bottom of the problem. These are the things that can only be done efficiently if you set up a meeting.
In my article on creative thinking strategies, I have identified the two types of brainstorming: individual and group.
A single entity can do individual brainstorming and requires no escalation to a bigger group. You may not ask for an audience through a meeting for brainstorming sessions like this. On the other hand, group brainstorming requires throwing ideas at one another in a group. Most of the problems that require group brainstorming are complex problems that may need more time and discussions.
In group brainstorming sessions, members must be able to consider and communicate ideas and possibilities, gather outside perspectives, and collaborate with one another. These will help you collect as many ideas as you can without burning out.
Doing these iterations over chat is probably going to take weeks. Meetings for brainstorming sessions may only take 30 or 60 minutes per session. Having the ability, through meetings, to tackle different angles and different perspectives depending on your skillset and so forth is the reason why brainstorming is easier if you meet up.
7. Driving Out Creative Conclusions
Setting up meetings enforces creativity because all the people in the room revolve around a specific topic and all of them are united around a specific problem.
Additionally, meetings, especially those onsite, discourage people from playing on their phones or laptops or doing paperwork. They are more laser-focused on the problem and are more inclined to listen.
You are more energetic because everyone’s listening to the same music. Everyone’s hearing the same vibes and riding the same wave. With that in mind, more creativity, R&D work, and innovation happen during those types of meetings. This is particularly true when you schedule them at the right times so that they don’t interfere with other forms of work.
Most startups have meetings on Saturdays or early in the mornings. It is usually the founding team and of the initial members that are not nine-to-five workers because they want to be fully focused and dedicated on product planning, innovation, or R&D such as better research coming up with new and creative strategies.
8. Engaging Feedback Sessions
If you really want to involve the people, your staff, and subordinates, in the conversation, you want to leverage face-to-face meetings because the feedback loop works a lot better when you have a one-on-one meeting and you can actually pull certain questions from them. You can provoke them to participate and invite them to engage.
You can make them feel welcome to engage in a conversation as compared to just texting something over chat. Since most will feel conscious about logged conversations, you are not going to receive decent feedback unless the person is extremely confident or extroverted.
So, keep in mind that the feedback that you’re going to receive over text is definitely not going to be the same as the feedback you could get from meetings. Those are some of the critical reasons that you need to do meetings instead of chats because otherwise, it’s probably going to be worse.
But then again, let’s not forget all the rules of why it’s really bad to just organize meetings unless necessary, and why you should avoid meetings most of the time.
Before you conduct a meeting, you always have to check whether there are:
- Clear objectives
- Clear agenda
- Enough number of people in the room
As mentioned in my previous post, you may examine the following considerations:
- Is there really a need for the meeting?
- Is the meeting going to solve a pressing business problem?
- Is there another way to discuss or update one another?
Not everyone is a great communicator. If you’re a great communicator, it still helps and is better than chatting. But keep in mind that some people may actually have a hard time discussing their thoughts or organizing them which may cause additional over-communication and prolong the meeting. Most introverts may find it harder to participate.
Don’t ignore introverts, which are more or less half of the population. They may not be as inclined to speak in front of a room with three, five, or ten other people as compared to just participating in an email thread or just voting on something.
New team members who are heavy introverts may not be really willing to participate unless you welcome them to do that. Meetings are ineffective unless you have a clear agenda and there is a time cap.
Once the meeting is over, you need to have actionable items. Assign tasks with due dates. Following up on these assignments will also help.
Again, setting up a meeting is not all good and bad. It is somewhere in the middle. Just make sure you apply your critical thinking every time to make the most for your business and your colleagues.