7 Reasons Your Most Important Meetings Have Been a Waste of Time

October 17, 2019

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(and the ONE change you can make that will fix them)

Strategy meeting at Spotify

Did you know that middle managers spend roughly 35% of their time in meetings? For senior managers, this number can bump up to 50%. And it makes sense. As efficient and convenient as technology has made communication, some conversations need to be had face-to-face.

But how much of the time you spend in meetings is wasted? ImageThink understands the course of a meeting can change; new ideas can be sparked, new paths charted. We’re in 300 meetings a year all over the globe. Below are seven meeting pitfalls we protect our Fortune 50 clients from with one simple recommendation.

Assign (or even hire) a dedicated meeting facilitator. Read on below, to learn the myriad ways a facilitator can save your next meeting!

PITFALL ONE: Your meeting started without a clear goal.

Identifying a topic is easy – we can all recognize things that need to be talked about – and a facilitator can help frame that topic as a clear goal. Having a goal aligns everyone’s focus, meaning meetings are much more productive. Additionally, defining your desired outcome can help you confirm who really needs to be present, ensuring you don’t waste anyone’s time. At ImageThink, we work with clients upfront to help them clarify their goal, and ensure all activities, information an conversations map back to achieving it.

Team meeting around brainstorming board

PITFALL TWO: Your meeting didn’t start with a strong agenda.

Goal-setting is an excellent way to improve a meeting, but there’s so more can be done! A skilled facilitator can help design a structured discussion that prepares attendees, gets everyone on the same page, and serves as an arbiter of disputes, moving the meeting along when the team gets stuck.

PITFALL THREE: The meeting is asking the wrong questions.

Great! You’ve got a clear goal. And an agenda. This! Thing! Is! Happening! So how are you diving in? What questions are you posing to the group? Too narrow a question can limit everyone’s thinking to the most obvious solution, discouraging creativity and participation. Too broad, and the group can easily spiral into countless conversations that don’t really contribute to your overall aim. In her Design Thinking workshops, ImageThink CEO Nora Herting teaches how to appropriately frame what is being asked in order to optimize contributions. 

Active Listening Ear Illustration

PITFALL FOUR: What’s that? You’re not listening.

Fair warning: this one’s a biggie. Perhaps the most important role a good meeting facilitator is to be an attentive listener. Listening allows the facilitator to identify big ideas, catch on trends, and most importantly, ensure everyone in the meeting feels heard. (Get top listening tips from the ImageThink Team.)

PITFALL FIVE: No One Is Managing the Clock (and Plan for Breaks!)

Meetings run long. Every meeting. Every time. The best laid plans and all that. Teams identify new challenges and ideas in the room, mid-meeting, that cannot or should not be ignored. Time management is a delicate balancing act. To that end, it’s important to build in breaks for long meetings and to budget additional buffer time for these diversions and discoveries. While it’s good to stick to the schedule, it’s also ok to put it to the group whether everyone wants to devote more time to a specific topic.

PITFALL SIX: There’s no one capturing the best ideas.

C’mon – it’s us – you knew this one would be on here. Understandably, we are advocates for graphic recording as a powerful tool for memorializing the best ideas to come from your session. But even without a Graphic Recorder, you can assign a scribe to take minutes on a computer, or even record the session on your iPhone. The point is, this, and the next pitfall are the two most common reasons that even productive meetings can feel like failures. However you do it, make sure you get it down. Ideas left to memory are as good as lost.

ImageThink Graphic Recorder capturing notes

PITFALL SEVEN: Your Meeting Was Adjourned Without Assigning Next Steps, Action Items, and Owners

This is where the rubber meets the road. Was everyone’s time worth it? A good facilitator will reserve a few minutes at the end of the meeting (include this time in the agenda) to discuss action items, owners, and deadlines. This ensures that everyone’s hard work and good ideas will be implemented. It also makes everyone feel valued and appreciated. Pro-tip: this is also a great time to set the next meeting!

Shall We Adjourn?

A meeting is only as good as what comes out of it, and what comes out is only as good as what was put in. As you can see, it takes a lot of work to really ensure that a meeting is productive, valuable to everyone involved, and sets you up for success. It’s why after 10 years in meetings with Fortune 50 companies, we recommend hiring a dedicated meeting facilitator, whether that’s us or not, so that the 35%-50% of your working hours that you’re spending in meetings are efficient, effective, and worth the effort!

Set your next meeting up to be a success, and assign or hire a facilitator today. ImageThink is happy to help evaluate your meeting needs, offer some tips, and advise you on how you can select the best partner. Give us a call at 347-735-9620 or click here today.