Why we hate meetings... and how to make them better

We look at the facts and figures behind our fear and loathing of meetings, where companies are going wrong and what can be done to put it right...

A good, effective meeting can motivate a team, a department or an entire business. Everyone emerges with a clear idea of what is required, and there is a renewed sense of purpose to take the company forward.

But when a staff meeting goes wrong, it can become an exercise in clock-watching (which won’t go any faster by looking at it!). By the time the attendees have started replying to any emails they’ve missed, they soon forget why they were there, or what it was for.

The success or failure of a meeting can also be as much down to the environment as it is because of the content. One survey published last year revealed that companies spend millions on booking meeting spaces based purely on searching for venues online.

Those venues may not always provide free WiFi, AV, whiteboards, conference calling facilities, break out areas and so on, resulting in a number of hidden extras being added to the final bill.

You could also find yourself stuck in a gloomy room with very little natural light, with catering is worthy of Gordon Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares.

So, we’ve examined the facts and figures behind why people don’t like meetings along with some simple ways to solve the problem...

The Vital Statistics

The average office worker spends 10 hours 42 minutes every week, preparing for and attending 4.4 meetings, with 2.6 of those meetings considered to be unnecessary. (source, Office of National Statistics/eShare)

A survey of 2,000 employees in the UK, France and Germany found that staff spent the equivalent of 23 days a year in meetings and two thirds of respondents will conjure up all sorts of excuses to simply to avoid attending. (source: Crowne Plaza Hotel & Resorts)

1 in 10 will pretend they got the time or date wrong, and one in 20 will call in sick to get out of a meeting. (source: Crowne Plaza Hotel & Resorts)

The average meeting will have 6.8 attendees, this equates to annual staff costs per business of £35,395.36, based on ONS average earnings data. With 5.4 million businesses in the UK, this means the total staff cost per year of unnecessary meetings is more than £191 billion. (source, Office of National Statistics/eShare)

In Europe 29 per cent of meetings take place at a hotel conference space. Of those companies surveyed, 77 per cent simply relied on using on consumer search channels, such as Google, to find a venue for a meeting. (source GBTA, 2018)

79% of delegates were disappointed with a host venue’s catering (source: Warwick Conferences)

Just 12% of event bookers rank catering quality as a top three criteria when booking a venue. However, when asked what contributes towards satisfaction, 80% cite appropriate catering as being their number one priority (source: Warwick Conferences)

63% of meetings have no planned agenda (source: Attentiv)

45% of managers and event bookers have received an invoice that exceeded the original total (source: Warwick Conferences)

The Solutions

If you’re responsible for booking a staff meeting, or setting the team agenda, then it could be worth considering this three-step plan;

Clarity - Set the team meeting agenda in advance. Be clear about what attendees need to bring to the meeting, what the objectives are and show the outcomes. A lot of the time you attend meetings and there are no actions or next steps, which effectively can undo all the work that went into arranging that meeting in the first place.

Concise - Sometimes you invite too many people and the outcomes become diluted. Also, the way you structure the meeting can result in people discussing things that could easily be resolved offline. Work out who absolutely needs to be at that meeting or whether an attendee’s time could be better spent elsewhere.

Connect – Understandably, some employees bemoan the fact there are too many meetings but also that colleagues either don’t pay enough attention or get distracted.

Some businesses make people read the agenda at the start along with actions from the previous meeting to ensure that everyone is focused and up to date. Other businesses insist that attendees must leave their mobile devices outside of the meeting room.
The issue is not so much about having fewer meetings, it’s about making them more relevant, getting the right people in the room and getting them to connect in the right way.

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