It's hard to escape them and they seem to hit our in-box at breakneck speed: meeting requests. Is it possible to go through an entire day without have a meeting? There are days when all we do is meet. Sometimes we even before a meeting to discuss what we'll discuss during the meeting.

Rarely are meetings inspiring, productive, or fun. It's meeting madness. Doodle, an online scheduling platform that helps people who aren't on the same platform schedule meetings, found that companies will waste $541 billion in pointless meetings this year.

Is there any way to escape them altogether and not go home with a headache? With the advent of technology, is it worth hopping on an airplane to meet when we can conduct meetings electronically? Wouldn't that be better for the earth and our budgets, too?

"Although technology has made it easier and easier to meet remotely, and that is a good thing, there is something particularly powerful associated with individuals coming together to meet face-to-face," advocates Steven G. Rogelberg, a professor of management at the University of North Carolina in Charlotte in the Doodle report.

Rogelberg feels meetings have gotten a bad rep and wants us to reconsider how we conduct them rather than avoid them altogether. In his recently-published book, The Surprising Science of Meetings, he recommends, among other things, talking less.

Rather than waste precious air time, he recommends attendees write down suggestions anonymously to share with the group so ideas can be discussed without anyone fearing the wrath of negative commentary and, let's be honest, gives every idea a fighting chance (not just those shared at the head of the conference table).

Silent Brainstorming

Rogelberg might be onto something. When I held meetings, my junior staff either fought to be heard and feel like they were being taken seriously or they'd clamp down entirely, too concerned with how their ideas would be viewed. In the meantime, some of my senior staff loved to hear themselves talk, even if they didn't have anything solid to share. The idea of writing ideas down anonymously would have saved us time and likely generated smarter ideas for us to consider.

While face-to-face meetings are sometimes preferred and more productive since you have everyone in one room, some of these same advantages apply to virtual brainstorming, too.

Virtual brainstorming eliminates production blocking, the process where dominant participants talk too much, taking over the session and eclipsing their colleagues, according to a piece published in Harvard Business Review. Anonymous idea submissions help to remove the apprehension of sharing it in the first place since it can't be attributed to one person. Finally, studies have shown that more heads are better than one when it comes to electronic brainstorming because they produce more ideas than in a verbal brainstorming session.

Standing Meetings

One of my friends who works in a very corporate environment and admits is stuck in meetings all week looks forward to one because the organizer makes them relinquish their phones at the entrance and has them stand during the entire meeting. As an outsider, I can see how this would be an appealing scenario. Standing forces you to deal with the task at hand and not having your phone to distract you makes it easier to focus on the reason you were called into the meeting in the first place. Provided everyone was able to stand comfortably, it's also smart because it gets us off our chairs.

Professionals spend two hours a week in pointless meetings, which results in a tremendous waste in resources, according to Doodle's report. Meetings don't need to be soul-sucking and unproductive. Whether you grab Rogelberg's book, backed with data and key takeaways at the end of each chapter, or you try something entirely new, it's possible for meetings to fun. The first step is recognizing that something has to change and then trying different methods.

Published on: Jan 11, 2019
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