A world without meetings

How much time did you spend in meetings this week – and how many of them did you feel were productive and added value to your working day?

Research by management consultancy Bain and Co suggests the average employee spends 15% of their total work time in meetings. This increases to the equivalent of two days a week for company CEOs. However, 44% of respondents said they had attended poorly-organised meetings that left them short of time to complete their other work.

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More than a third of respondents (38%) said the bad organisation had led to a loss of focus on projects, while 43% said unclear actions by organisers led to confusion among attendees. Slow progress was the consequence, according to 31% of delegates.

A study by software firm Klaxoon revealed 22% of respondents felt meetings were a complete waste of time. Considering the average business meeting runs for about an hour, the cost of unproductive meetings to an organisation can soon add up.

If you were one of the unlucky people who spent time in an ineffective meeting, wishing you were somewhere else, imagining a world without meetings might be something that makes you smile. However, when you sit down and think about it logically, meetings make the world go around.

Why are meetings so important?
Without meetings, decisions would have to be made without collaboration, we couldn’t collectively share and discuss ideas in real-time and input would rely on other channels, such as email. The convenience and spontaneous nature of meetings is often taken for granted, so take a moment to think of the consequences if the practice was scrapped.

Meetings that are organised properly are crucial in everyday life. The world needs meetings to function – even if it’s just meeting your family for dinner! We need to hold meetings in various industries and not just the business world.

It’s easy to pigeonhole meetings as a corporate entity, but in reality, everyone from politicians and pop groups to dancers and sports teams relies on meetings to plan the way forward. We wouldn’t be able to cope in a world without meetings, as they hold too much value, helping people to progress in day to day life.

In the world of politics, nothing could be done without meetings, whether they are organised to plan future strategies, discuss the economy (including major changes such as Brexit), organise elections, appoint new personnel or debate emergency situations, such as the Covid-19 pandemic.

Some of the most monumental political decisions in history came about because of a meeting, such as when Mahatma Gandhi met Lord Louis Mountbatten in 1947. The meeting between Indian anti-colonial campaigner Gandhi and the last Viceroy of India Mountbatten paved the way for India’s independence from British colonial rule, which had to be delivered by 30th June 1948.

Sports industry
Meetings take place all the time in the sports industry, whether it’s a gathering of sports club executives to discuss their finances, top football agents meeting club directors to iron out a contract and salary, or crisis meetings if a club is in danger of going under. Sadly, this is something that we may see more of as a result of the continued coronavirus pandemic.

Without meetings, the key personnel would have to communicate by email or phone, removing the important element of real-time collaboration, with the relevant individuals sitting in the conference room.

The momentous meeting between media mogul Greg Dyke and the Big Five football clubs in England in 1991 led to the formation of the Premier League. This was the biggest shake-up in English football since 1958, turning the sport into the multimillion-pound industry we know today.

Meetings in the medicine and pharmaceutical sector can have ground-breaking results that can ultimately save lives. New products are discussed and sanctioned, clinical tests are organised and assessed, responses to new diseases are drawn up, medical procedures and advances in medicine are debated and the future of world health comes under the spotlight.

Without the meeting between brilliant scientists Maria Sklodowska and Pierre Curie in 1894, the treatment of cancer may have been set back by decades. The Curies discovered radium and jointly won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1903, leaving behind their legacy of the Marie Curie cancer charity.

Some of the most amazing movies and shows may never have happened if it hadn’t been for meetings in the entertainments industry. We all need something in our life to bring a little sunshine into these challenging times – and films and television provide joy for many people currently trapped at home due to Covid-19.

Over the years, meetings have led to the world’s most amazing dance partnership of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers and the awesome movies of comedy duo Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy.

Personal life
While you may think meetings all have a corporate or professional status, think again! How many times have you met friends and family to discuss a special birthday or anniversary party? What about meeting with hoteliers, caterers, dressmakers and florists to discuss wedding plans to make sure everything is just right on the big day?

While you may think you can do this by phone or email, nothing can beat having a personal face-to-face conversation with someone to make sure you’re all on the same page.

Corporate meetings
Finally, to return to the problem of attendees thinking corporate meetings are a waste of time, the solution is to make sure your meetings are organised efficiently so that everyone present appreciates the real value of the corporate get together.

Some simple tips to keep your meeting flowing smoothly include always having an agenda – as one of the biggest ways to waste time is an ad-libbed meeting. Keep the minute taking simple and action-based, remembering the three basic requirements: what, when and who. What is the action, when is it due to be completed and who will take it?

By planning meetings carefully, keeping them on track via an agenda and ensuring everyone knows what their tasks are afterwards through the minutes, you can avoid becoming one of the 22% of meeting organisers who are wasting time!

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