You don’t need to know dark art to run efficient, productive business meetings


We’ve all been there. A meeting is scheduled, most people arrive on time, and then nothing happens for ten minutes. Well, to be precise, quite a bit happens, or doesn’t happen, as the case may be.

Usually those first ten minutes are lost because the team are trying to find a free meeting space to use, or having troubles with the meeting room technology. Trying to plug a laptop into a projector and discovering the right cable isn’t available. Dialling in participants for a conference audio or video call, and the connection drops out, or you can see them, but you can’t hear them. Research has found that 37 per cent of meetings start late,[1] resulting in time and money wasted.

In fact, unproductive meetings have been estimated to cost US organisations $37 billion annually.[2] With employees spending a solid portion of their working week in meeting spaces, any obstacles with meeting room scheduling, audiovisual equipment and setup, can all impede on their success.

So what are some strategies you can use to get back those lost ten minutes, ensure the meeting is productive, and everyone gets to leave on time with a proper understanding of what was discussed?

First of all, make your meeting objective clear. Every meeting should have a specific and defined purpose, so make sure you and all those attending understand what the meeting seeks to accomplish.

Secondly, be critical of who’s being invited to the meeting. Take the time to think about who really needs to be there. According to SpaceX and Tesla founder, Elon Musk,[3] meeting participants shouldn’t hesitate to leave a meeting if they’re not contributing: “Walk out of a meeting or drop off a call as soon as it is obvious you aren’t adding value. It is not rude to leave, it is rude to make someone stay and waste their time.”

Thirdly, create a schedule that lays out each discussion item for the meeting, with time allotments and leads against each. Share this with meeting attendees ahead of, and as soon as you’re in the meeting, display the agenda on a screen to get everyone quickly focused.

Those tips are things everyone can implement to make their meetings more constructive and productive. But what if you’re doing those things, and the meeting still starts late? Research has found that organisations invest up to 15 per cent of their personnel budget on meetings.[4] Ensuring that they’re efficient and occur within the nominated time period (and a good rule of thumb is that no meeting should last for more than an hour – people’s attention span drops off after that time) is therefore essential.

Generally it comes back to what was alluded to earlier – the technology problem. Businesses need smart, seamless and intuitive workplace infrastructure. Today’s meeting rooms must be able to handle multiple wireless connections from personal devices into the AV system. Room bookings and confirmations should be accomplished through a personal device, easily and quickly, with the booking status sent back to the person booking the room and to the devices of the other invitees. That way, there’s no confusion over the meeting location and you won’t be left frantically racing to find a free space.

Most of all, businesses need to embrace office technology that’s flexible enough, and smart enough, to cope with ad-hoc meetings. Video conferencing with overseas colleagues must be seamless and as easy as pushing a button to commence the discussion. A system that integrates with all of the popular video conferencing providers such as Skype for Business and Zoom is key to this. An added bonus is that smart building and AV systems today can automatically adjust lighting, HVAC and shades; tweak audio volumes for the number of people in the room; and automatically reset themselves and signify their ‘available’ status when the meeting has finished. Put simply, make it all easy to use. That is not just a nice to have; it’s a must.

This sort of technology is a productivity investment, even for small and medium sized businesses, and having used new generation smart office technology you and your staff won’t want to go back.

Using key meeting productivity tips in combination with smart workplace technology, means that those first ten minutes of a meeting will see everyone engaged, the meeting will run to time, and the participants will have a clear idea of what the meeting was about, as well as what is required of them. Don’t waste time with old meeting strategies and technologies – new generation meetings are here to stay.


About the author

Stuart Craig is the Chief Executive Officer of Crestron Electronics (APAC). 

[1] http://bps-research-digest.blogspot.com.au/2013/03/the-scourge-of-meeting-late-comers.html

[2] https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/crestron-tackles-37-billion-challenge-the-cost-and-frustration-of-bad-meetings-300249181.html

[3] https://www.cnbc.com/2018/04/18/elon-musks-productivity-rules-according-to-tesla-email.html

[4] http://bps-occupational-digest.blogspot.com.au/2013/11/not-getting-much-out-of-meetings-you.html