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How to organise the perfect meeting

Kevan Hall

Global Integration has launched a new campaign for better meetings. CEO, Kevan Hall summarises some key points from the campaign and gets us thinking about how to save a day a week by saying ‘no’ to unnecessary meetings and working smarter

Business meetings, on average, consume two days a week of time for managers and professional people in large organisations. About half of this time, they tell us, is wasted. 20% waste in our expensive managerial and professional people is a significant amount of money – hundreds of millions of pounds per year for some of our large clients.

At Global Integration, we have identified three major reasons for this wasted time:

• unnecessary topics.
• unclear meetings outcomes and process
• unnecessary participants

Unnecessary topics

In planning your perfect meeting make sure all of the topics actually require a meeting to discuss them. A lot of information sharing, for example, status updates, can be delivered asynchronously, through tools such as email, social media, blogs, or as pre-work outside of the meeting. In some of our studies 40% or more of meeting content is usually information sharing.

Many topics in meetings are only relevant to a small number of individuals, perhaps even one-to-one, the rest of the participants add no value. If this is the case, the topic should be handled one-to-one or through small sub-teams.

As a general rule, if there is no role for participation of the audience, the topic probably doesn't require a meeting. 

Unclear meetings outcomes and process

75% of meetings don't have an agenda set in advance and those that do are usually simply a list of topics, with no outcome expected. When you see a topic such as "business review", what does that mean? Are we reviewing information, making suggestions, making a decision? How can you possibly prepare or decide whether you should attend? Great meetings are driven by outcomes. For instance, a good outcome might be "to make a decision on a new supplier."
You then need to think about the process required to deliver the outcome. What steps do you need to take in the meeting in order to reach the outcome planned? Most of the work in ensuring a perfect meeting is done before the meeting. If you are clear about outcomes and process you have taken a huge step forward.

Unnecessary participants

It is common for between 15% and 25% of participants in a meeting to be unnecessary. Either the topics are not relevant to them or they don't participate or engage in any way. A perfect meeting only has the right people in the room for each topic and those needed to make a decision
Classic unnecessary participants include stand-ins sent by the people you really wanted to attend; people who only attend to promote their visibility; and multi-taskers who don't pay attention.

Making the change to perfect meetings

In my experience, many people already know how to run the perfect meeting. If I ask managers in leading companies they can usually quote the most important factors, but, at the same time, they rarely attend or run meetings that implement this knowledge.
So, why is it so hard to change meetings behaviours? Part of it is inertia, people are used to meetings being terrible and so they accept them as part of everyday life. Even though they are busy, they are willing to spend a day a week wasting their time.
Meetings can also be seen to achieve other things. They are seen as opportunities to build the team, the chance to be visible and are a way of keeping informed. All of these are important, but there are far more efficient ways of delivering them. Social time or small group conversations can be much more fulfilling, for instance. Participants of meetings need to be far better equipped to say no to irrelevant meetings and to ensure that the meetings they plan are relevant to others. In many cases, people know they need to do something different, to regain their time, but lack the right tools to effectively do so. This is why we developed the Better Meetings campaign.  Participants receive a free set of tools, exercises and targets each week for six weeks to help them disconnect from unnecessary meetings and topics, and improve the quality of the face-to-face and virtual meetings that remain. 

Without these tools, the average executive can look forward to 13 years of unnecessary meetings within a typical 13 year career. Visit to find out more. 


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