Making Those Meetings Work For You


We’re going to touch on an old subject with some new survey results and common sense ways to tackle an ongoing challenge.

Remember your last hour-long meeting? Chances are 15 minutes of it went to waste, suggests a new Robert Half Management Resources survey. Professionals interviewed believe 25 percent of the time they spend in meetings is unproductive. Respondents feel the most common mistakes meeting leaders make are not sticking to an agenda and lacking a clear purpose for the gathering.

The survey featured interviews with more than 400 U.S. workers age 18 and over and employed in office environments. Employees were also asked, “Which of the following mistakes do meeting leaders commonly make?” Their responses (multiple responses were allowed):

  • Not having a clear purpose or agenda: 30%
  • Not sticking to the agenda: 30%
  • Not ending on time: 20%
  • Not starting on time: 15%
  • Inviting people who don’t need to attend: 14%

Paul McDonald, senior executive director for Robert Half, said misguided meetings can do more harm than good: “An unnecessary or poorly conducted meeting can bring everyone down because attendees feel like their time is not valued. Leaders can avoid this situation by clearly establishing the purpose of the discussion, ensuring the right people attend and providing them an opportunity to contribute.”

Robert Half Management Resources offers the following five tips for leading effective meetings:

  • Review the invite list. Limit attendees to those participants who have a stake in the outcome of items on the agenda. Indicating “required” versus “optional” attendance lets employees know when their participation and input is necessary and can help them prioritize their time.
  • Keep on track. Good leaders ensure the agenda and any supporting materials are accessible and publicized in advance, and that the discussion remains focused. Be prepared to cut off or table an unrelated conversation until a later time.
  • Plan accordingly. If it’s an in-person meeting, make sure there are enough seats in the room for everyone. Leave time for setup and pre-meeting technology challenges that may arise.
  • Monitor time. Keep it short and sweet. If a standing meeting is booked for an hour each week, but it usually lasts just 30 minutes, consider rethinking the time allotted. If there’s not much to discuss, consider using email or a memo as an alternative to a meeting.
  • Finish strong. If anyone leaves the meeting wondering what the next steps are, you haven’t done your job as meeting host. Allow time for people to ask questions, and determine who has responsibility for each follow-up item.

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