Are meetings really a waste of time or merely the latest battle cry of those who struggle to make them effective? There's a popular argument that in this day and age, meetings themselves are wasteful endeavors. Let's take a look at five of the persisting mythical claims that are at the heart of the "no meetings" mantra.
1. Meetings are the problem.
This is a classic case of confusing the symptom for the disease. A meeting can only be as effective as the people running, leading, facilitating and contributing to it. People make meetings happen. People in the room may lack the skills required to competently communicate effectively and to drive an agenda to actionable results and conclusions.
Many anti-meeting believers fail to consider the possibility that it's their own lack of ability that makes their meetings ineffective. It's not the meetings themselves they really hate, their disdain and resentment is more precisely focused on the lack of meaningful results from meetings.
Who provides the inputs that produce the results? It's the people. If people notice and fail to speak up when a meeting strays, or fail to advocates to drive it to actionable results, then they are culpable, and part of the problem. Blaming the meeting, conveniently allows the anti-meeting fans to avoid personal and professional accountability.
2. We should be talking about meetings versus no meetings.
This is another pseudo-scientific viewpoint of a situation that fails to consider all the possibilities. Is it really the amount or length of meetings you need to optimize, or is it the effectiveness and quality?
If you're going to hypothesize about the quantity and length of meetings, to be fair, you also need to quantify the quality of the meeting. This takes extra work, which most people don't want to do. So they stick with what's easy, not what's necessarily accurate.
Limiting the analysis sidesteps the consideration of other possibilities and helps the anti-meeting believers continue the myth while avoiding accountability at yet another level.
3. High opportunity costs of meetings makes them de facto wasteful.
Knowing the true opportunity cost of any meeting to ensure it's worth having, is an important step. Yet it's all too easy to fall for the bias of information that's easy to obtain and measure versus what matters. In this case, If you're asking about opportunity costs of meetings, you should also ask what the opportunity costs of no meetings would be and compare them.
This is something the anti-meeting believers fail to do. Calculating the costs of no meetings is harder to do because it would affect and ripple through the whole business, resulting in a much higher number.
The lack of meetings would increase in indirect communications. And, instead of establishing a collective grasp of the subject in one session, you'd have a series of more drawn out, intermittent, rapid fire emails and instant messages, repeatedly sent, adding to the noise and interruptions in the workplace.
Refocusing after a single interruption can require almost a half an hour to zone in on your original task. So, Increasing interruptions with redundant, disjointed, indirect communications would likely get far more expensive faster than a focused meeting would.
4. You don't need to meet to get buy-in.
Ask ten business-to-business, sales professionals about their preference for meetings. Eight out of ten of them will tell you that they'd prefer to get face to face with anyone, and the other two would be stupid. Studies have shown you're 34x more likely to convert a prospect over the phone versus using email. That number only goes up when you get face to face with people. And getting team members with slightly different needs and objectives to work together is similarly difficult. You can't assume perfect alignment and motivation in the company. You have to work to build bridges, make connections and generate buy in.
5. New technology makes meetings irrelevant.
Au contraire, mon ami. Multiple studies indicate that technology has increased our social isolation, stress and depression, reducing our resilience and social intelligence.
Further, even seeing other humans on the screen via video conferencing has been shown to increase the likelihood of deception, lies, and half-truths. It's easier to lie via email, chat, video, you name it.
Getting belly to belly however, makes a difference. It may feel better to use a whole new world of technology alternatives to navigate our social anxiety, but it can't yet replace the power and volume of information conveyed getting face to face.
A lot of people fail to develop and equip themselves as communicators with the means to drive and participate in effective meetings. Many are using a "No Meeting" mantra to put it off as long as possible. Meetings are not the enemy. The ability to orchestrate, conduct, and contribute in a mix or strategic, tactical, mental, and emotional alchemy are part of an essential skill set that successful entrepreneurs, growth minded leaders, and true professionals need to cultivate.