Meetings can feel like a waste of time, and sometimes, unfortunately, they are.
Ineffective meetings plague many organizations. Perhaps, at one time or another, meetings served a practical purpose and added value to everyone involved. Somewhere along the line, however, they just became a standing commitment that no one challenged.
Although it’s good to be committed to communicating and meeting with your team, status updates and random, open-ended discussions are of limited use. If this is where your meetings are going, it’s probably time to re-think your approach.
As the CEO of a platform that helps organize and run productive meetings, I’ve picked up some clear indications of whether a meeting is effective. Here’s when you do need to call a meeting — and when you’re better off without it.
When you should call a meeting
Weekly meetings are necessary, first and foremost, when you have a clear purpose for them. If you can’t think of anything you’d like to accomplish at a meeting and you’re having a hard time putting together an agenda, then a meeting is unnecessary. Additionally, if you’re just looking for status updates on projects, there are other ways of gathering that information from your staff.
Weekly meetings could also be beneficial if you’re in a high-paced industry where there is constant change and projects are completed and replaced with new ones quickly. You have to be watchful of taking up too much time in instances like these, but it may be necessary to stay updated as a team and make quick decisions about what needs to be done next.
Weekly meetings are also good when they prevent potential disasters from taking place. Granted, major issues shouldn’t be arising on a weekly basis or there might be other problems that you need to deal with. However, even important assignments could be forgotten by team members, especially when things are busy. These items can be communicated outside the context of meetings too, but it all depends on who is involved and what specifically needs to be done.
When you don’t need to meet
Meetings are evil when they waste everyone’s time. If there aren’t any clear goals, if everyone was called in regardless of their involvement, if you and your team’s time could be better spent elsewhere, then the meeting was unnecessary.
If the meeting is making some people nod off, how effective is it when your team meets? Granted, meetings aren’t always terribly interesting, but if those in attendance have no reason to pay attention, it’s a good sign you never took the time to think about who needed to be there and why you needed them in attendance.
Another evil is not starting and ending on time. A lot of people build their work days around meetings. If someone needs to be somewhere else at a given time, and you don’t end the meeting on time or dismiss those who need to leave, it could end up causing some major problems.
And, what many would consider the greatest evil of meetings is known as “the check-in.” This is typically where team leaders simply follow up and ensure that everyone is doing their work. However, in a self-motivated team, this should be a given. Unless there is something urgent to discuss with a project, such as some changes that need to be made immediately, there’s no need to gather everyone to discuss it. If everyone is already communicating well, meeting for the sake of communicating is just bad planning.
In general, meetings must be well-managed. They should be short, and they shouldn’t be booked during peak hours to avoid unnecessary interruptions. If you follow these guidelines, and you have something important to discuss with your team members every single week, then calling that meeting can indeed be beneficial. Otherwise, it may be a good idea to reduce the frequency of your meetings.
This article has been edited.
Jason Shah is the founder and CEO of Do, a collaboration platform that helps you run productive meetings.