What to do before, during, and after meetings to make them more effective

As mobility continues to change the business landscape, CIOs are going to have to ensure that meetings keep pace.

5 team meeting group planning
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Ever since I started working, I’ve been attending meetings, and I’ve witnessed them evolve from in-person gatherings held in the room down the hall to something quite different, typically attended by co-workers who join remotely from a variety of locations, enabled by a variety of devices. But has this transformation come with a cost? Are meetings as effective as they used to be?

Prysm recently worked with an outside firm to explore workplace collaboration, and as part of that effort, we asked people to describe meetings. The results were telling.

Most of the responses were words like “worthless,” “excruciating,” “tedious,” and even “barbaric.” A scattered few were somewhat more complimentary, like “benign” and “necessary.” All in all, though, for me, the message from our survey respondents was clear: Meetings are broken.

That’s a sobering statement because meetings have broad impacts across the entire enterprise. Think about it: If meetings are broken, that means collaboration is broken. And if collaboration is broken, agility, productivity, and ultimately, business outcomes suffer.

What can you do to remedy this downward spiral? Here’s what I suggest:

  1. Before: Make sure people come to the meeting prepared. Yes, this will require effort beyond simply scheduling the call, but you’ll reap enormous benefits if you distribute agendas and other relevant materials to attendees ahead of time. Work smart and leverage technology to help you prep meeting content.
  2. During: Look for technologies that improve collaboration and enhance the meeting experience. Meeting attendees may be calling in from around the block—or around the world. Whatever the case, your goal is to make people feel like they are together in the same room. One of the best ways to accomplish that is to make the experience visual. Research has shown that not only do visuals increase engagement; they can also make data more accessible, which improves decision-making. 
  3. After: Preserve content so it doesn't need to be repeated. Many of our survey respondents reported that they have a huge problem with content persistence (meaning that they have trouble making sure that files, video, web pages, whiteboards, annotations, etc., exist after a meeting ends). The key here is to stop conceiving of meetings as events with a definite beginning and an end. Instead, recognize that meetings are often segments of larger projects and look for technology that can preserve and instantly restore your sessions exactly where you left off.

How much of a difference can simple tweaks like these make? One of our clients did the math. First, they gathered data and determined that in a 60-minute meeting, only 35 minutes (!) were productive. Then, they calculated that if they could recoup a mere 10 minutes of productivity for each meeting across the business, the firm would save more than $150 million annually—just by enabling employees with better meeting and collaboration technology.

As mobility continues to change the business landscape, CIOs are going to have to ensure that meetings keep pace. If people at your company are frustrated by inadequate collaboration technology, focus on the employee experience before, during, and after meetings as the first steps towards driving innovation, making work more engaging, and improving overall performance of the business.

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