When was the last time you walked out of a meeting and thought to yourself, "now that was productive!" Most people spend almost 12 hours of their 40-hour workweek preparing for and attending meetings.

Most people also feel like absolutely nothing gets done in meetings, and that they are a complete waste of time. So why are we even still having meetings? Isn't there a better way to collaborate on group projects and get things done?

Common problems with meetings

One of the most frustrating things about meetings commonly reported by meeting attendees is problems with connecting to the Internet or getting programs to function correctly.

Either you get into a meeting room and find it's a dead spot for the company's WiFi signal, someone dialing in from another location is having trouble hearing what's going on, or the video chat program you are using just isn't buffering the video fast enough. Sitting around waiting for things to work the way they should is a frustrating way to waste a lot of time in meetings.

Relying on old technology to bring groups together isn't always the best option.

Meetings are still a necessary part of the collaborative process

Most of the time, the reason you are having meetings is "to get on the same page" about projects and collaborations you are working on. Most things happen in business through teamwork, and teamwork often doesn't happen without meetings. It's a cycle that leads to wasted time and frustration for many people.

There are between 36 and 56 million meetings in the United States every day, and the lost productivity that comes from ineffective meetings costs businesses anywhere from $70-283 billion each year. 

Frustration from ineffective meetings comes from many different sources. Many meeting attendees complain that the meeting was unnecessary, and many attendees complain of repetition of things that have already been said.

Oftentimes you will see people doing other things in meetings, which may make you question why you are in a meeting at all. Meetings are necessary, but only if they are effective meetings.

How to make meetings more effective

Setting expectations for meetings ahead of time can help keep things on task and moving forward. Plan for the amount of time it will take your collaborative group to update each other, and set a timer to keep group members within their allotted time, if necessary. Most important, ask yourself if this needs to be a meeting at all.

Many collaborative tools can replace the need for meetings at all -- organizing all your progress notes into a place where they can be easily looked up and acted upon can really help eliminate the need for many of the status meetings that so many people find a waste of time.

A few ways to mitigate problems with ineffective meetings include:

  • Use a meeting app that simplifies the process of getting everyone dialed in from multiple locations.
  • Test out your technology and train people on using it before you need it.
  • Make sure everyone is using the same apps across the team.
  • Use interactive whiteboards and project your computer screen onto the whiteboard so the team can collaborate on brainstorming in a more visual way.
  • Record meetings so you don't have to rely on your notes later.
  • Gauge meeting effectiveness and make adjustments to future meetings.

How to make collaboration more streamlined

After all, the purpose of meetings is collaboration. Just checking in to make sure everyone is on the same page doesn't move the project forward. If you want to actually move the project forward, you need to make sure that collaboration is simple and streamlined. Make sure that necessary documents are in an easily accessible place and shared with everyone on the project -- nothing slows a project down more than needing a document and finding out its owner is out sick for the day.

Do an audit of your old collaboration technology and figure out where the gaps are. If you can't easily find everything in one place, chances are your technology is out of date. Consider upgrading to new technology that fills those gaps.

Learn to master meetings

Make the most of your workday by collaborating effectively and maximizing meeting time. If you are feeling the frustration of wasted meeting time, chances are you just aren't using the latest technology available to you. There is a better way! Nobody likes to waste time, but most people just don't know how to make meetings better. Learn more about mastering meetings from this infographic from CBTS.