Too long, irrelevant, disorganised: the truth about meetings

30 June 2015 -


Only 44% of time in meetings is well spent, new research shows, with productivity at risk as bungling attendees veer off topic

Matt Scott

Almost two-thirds of time spent in meetings is wasted and non-beneficial, new research has revealed.

At a time when Britain is struggling with poor productivity and many organisations claim that they’re reeling from efficiency cuts, these findings are bound to be a concern for managers trying to turn the tide.

Carried out by executive leadership coaches That People Thing, the nationwide study of 668 senior staffers found that, on average, just 44% of meeting time is believed to be valuable to the company, while as little as 36% is deemed beneficial to managers’ own roles within the company.

“Bad meetings are killing businesses,” said Blaire Palmer, That People Thing chief executive. “Meetings should be where key decisions are taken, where sales targets and figures are discussed and where the agenda is set.

“The research, however, shows they are a huge waste of valuable resources, tying up the time of key people responsible for the success of businesses in meetings where too much of the time they are achieving nothing.”

The biggest reason for meetings failing was that they are too long, with 56% of respondents citing this as the main problem.

Colleagues not being prepared, as well as people veering off topic and not being organised enough were also highlighted as a problem by 43% of those surveyed.

This means that meetings are not just overtly long and irrelevant, they are also overstaffed – a further drain on a company’s productivity.

Disengaged attendees are filling the void in some amusing ways, the research revealed…

Top Five Meeting Time-killers:

Daydreaming – 35%

Doodling – 27%

Planning evening meal – 10%

Browsing dating sites – 1%

Looking for a new job – 1%

A clear agenda and stimulating discussion emerged as the key to a good meeting, with 59% of respondents saying a meeting that makes clear decisions is valuable, and 46% welcoming vigorous debate and discussion.

Palmer added: “Well-run meetings can create a positive ripple throughout the culture of a business. Companies that address what’s going wrong in their meetings can see real benefits.”

To find out how even small changes in your company’s behaviour can have a significant impact, sign up to this CMI short course.

And don’t forget: CMI and Professional Manager is offering a wonderful free trip to Dubai to one lucky reader. Just share your top tips on improving your personal and organisational productivity.

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