We've all been there—trapped in a conference room or on a video call, thinking "this meeting could have been an email".
It's not just a drain on patience; it's a real drag on productivity that costs businesses a lot of wasted time and resources.
If you can find a way to cut down those unnecessary meetings, you'll easily become people's favorite team member. But who exactly can achieve this? Both managers and employees.
Managers can find strategies to lead their teams more effectively, avoiding common pitfalls that hurt productivity.
Employees, on the other hand, can discover how to use a more streamlined approach to communication that respects everyone’s time.
In this blog, we’ll go beyond just venting about the all-too-common issue of meeting overload.
We’ll explore actionable strategies to make sure every meeting counts.
Table of Contents:
- Understanding the Meeting vs. Email Dilemma
- How to Determine If a Meeting Is Necessary
- Best Practices to Avoid Unnecessary Meetings
- When Meetings Are Unavoidable: Making Them Effective
Understanding the Meeting vs. Email Dilemma
It's essential to recognize that not all communication is equal in the realm of business efficiency. Whether we're talking about brainstorming sessions or one-on-ones, it's wise to think twice before setting up a meeting.
The True Cost of Unnecessary Meetings
- Ineffective meetings are more than just a source of frustration; they translate directly into economic loss. Doodle's 2019 report on the state of meetings highlighted that poorly organized meetings are estimated to cost the U.S. economy a staggering $399 billion.
- The ripple effect of unproductive meetings can be profound. They not only consume valuable time that could be used to tackle important tasks, but they also contribute to a decrease in employee morale and an increase in workplace stress.
- For example, the average worker is reported to spend about 31 hours each month in unproductive meetings, according to Atlassian. This is time that could otherwise be spent on achieving project milestones or innovating within their roles.
The Role of Written Communication
- On the flip side, emails or project management software can enhance a team's productivity by allowing members to digest information at their own pace and contribute when they are most prepared.
- A clear email can eliminate the need for a 30-minute meeting just to get everyone on the same page, freeing up hours in employees' schedules for more pressing work.
By dissecting the importance of choosing the right medium for the message, we pave the way for a more efficient, engaged, and productive workplace.
How to Determine If a Meeting Is Necessary
Identifying Signs of an Unnecessary Meeting
If the objective is to simply disseminate information that requires no immediate feedback, like sending out company policy updates or weekly progress reports, an email is sufficient.
When the topics on the agenda are updates that do not prompt discussion or decision-making, it’s a clear sign that an email could replace a meeting.
Questions to Consider Before Scheduling
Will this meeting facilitate a decision that requires input from multiple team members?
Is there a need for real-time collaboration or could the matter be resolved asynchronously?
Are we discussing issues that require immediate clarification to prevent project delays?
Importance of a Clear Agenda
A well-defined agenda is a cornerstone of a necessary meeting. It outlines the topics for discussion, keeps the meeting focused, and helps to avoid veering off into tangents.
Without a clear agenda, meetings can quickly become free-for-alls where the original purpose is lost among side conversations.
Using Tech to Aid Decision Making
AI meeting notetaker tools like Wudpecker can play a pivotal role here.
By reviewing past meeting notes and summaries, you can assess whether similar points have been discussed before, thereby determining the need for a new meeting.
Wudpecker’s AI capabilities help identify recurring themes or unresolved issues, providing a basis for deciding if a meeting is the right next step.
You only have to set up your Wudpecker account once. After that, you'll always receive automatically generated meeting notes for every online or in person gathering (you can set up a laptop to join Zoom, Google Meet or Teams video calls in a physical meeting room).
Let's see how easy it is to set up:
1. Sign in to Wudpecker by clicking "Get started"
2. Continue either by connecting a Google or Microsoft account to Wudpecker.
After this, accept the permission for Wudpecker to access your calendar (this is for the purpose of automatically joining calls for a more seamless experience).
3. Make sure the meeting you want notes for shows up in "Upcoming calls" and that there's an activated toggle button next to it.
If this is not the case...
- Make sure you signed up with the correct account. The items on the menu are all the events in your calendar connected to the account you signed up with.
- Check that the meeting event you have in your calendar has a meeting link. (Psst: The meeting link needs to be in the "location" of the event)
- Try clicking on the toggle button to activate it (it should be activated/colored automatically).
- If none of this helps, you can always contact us by pressing the chat button on the right bottom corner.
Easy peasy! For any future meetings, just admit the notetaker in each time, and you'll be all set!
4. Once you're in the meeting, allow Wudpecker's Notetaker to join by clicking "Admit".
5. Soon after the meeting has ended, you'll see notes and a transcript for your meeting in "My Calls".
Best Practices to Avoid Unnecessary Meetings
Navigating the meeting landscape requires a keen eye for what’s essential and what’s excessive.
Implementing best practices can help create a meeting culture that respects everyone's time and contributes positively to the team’s productivity.
Establish a Meeting Protocol
- Develop a company-wide protocol that outlines clear criteria for when a meeting should be called. This could include the necessity of real-time discussion, the potential for significant impact on progress, or the involvement of decision-making that affects multiple departments.
- Be strategic about who is invited to a meeting. Ensure that each participant has a clear role and that their input is necessary for the objectives of the meeting. Avoiding blanket invites can reduce time spent by individuals who may otherwise have minimal contributions or stakes in the meeting's outcomes.
Encourage Alternative Communication Channels
- Promote the use of written communication and project management tools for updates that don't necessitate immediate back-and-forth interaction. This could alleviate the pressure of too many meetings on employees' schedules.
- Train teams on how to effectively use these channels to ensure clear and concise communication that can often preempt the need for a meeting.
For Both Managers and Employees:
Cultivate a Culture of Asynchronous Work
- Foster an environment where asynchronous work is valued and recognized. This means understanding that not all tasks need to be completed in unison and that individuals can contribute at times that best suit their productivity peaks.
Make Use of AI Tools Like Wudpecker
- Integrate AI tools such as Wudpecker into your workflow to reduce the need for follow-up meetings. By having a reliable record of what was discussed and agreed upon, teams can move forward confidently without needing to reconvene to recall all the details of the past.
- Wudpecker’s summaries can also help teams identify which points need further elaboration and which have been conclusively addressed, thus streamlining the meeting process.
Regular Review of Meeting Necessity
- Periodically review your meeting schedule to identify patterns or recurring meetings that could be consolidated or eliminated. This can help in reducing the number of redundant meetings over time.
- Encourage team leads to critically assess the value of each meeting, ensuring that only those with a clear objective and expected outcome make it onto the calendar.
When Meetings Are Unavoidable: Making Them Effective
Sometimes a meeting is the only way forward. When that's the case, ensuring it's as productive as possible becomes the priority. Here’s how you can make the necessary meetings count:
Preparation is Key
- Prior to the meeting, distribute a clear agenda with outlined objectives to all attendees. This ensures that everyone comes prepared and understands the focus of the meeting.
- Encourage participants to prepare any questions or discussion points in advance. This level of preparation can lead to more meaningful contributions from all involved.
- An agenda is always a good idea. Even for surprise impromptu meetings, you can craft a very simple one like this one below:
Facilitate Focused Discussion
- Assign a moderator for the meeting who will keep the discussion on track and ensure that each agenda item is addressed.
- Time-box each topic to prevent any single point of discussion from overwhelming the meeting’s schedule, ensuring that all crucial points receive attention.
Action Items and Follow-ups
- Conclude the meeting with a clear set of action items, designating responsible parties and deadlines for each task.
- This is easiest with Wudpecker's automatically generated Action Items. You don't need to write down anything yourself. All you need to do is go back to your meeting notes and share them with colleagues.
- After the meeting, solicit feedback from participants on the meeting’s effectiveness and areas for improvement. This can help refine the process for future meetings.
- Continuous improvement in meeting management can lead to better time utilization and more productive sessions overall.
One way to make work more enjoyable for you and others is to avoid unnecessary meetings (which are surprisingly common). Mastering the delicate balance between when to meet and when an email will suffice is an essential skill.
By understanding the real costs associated with unproductive meetings and embracing written correspondence for more straightforward tasks, organizations can unleash the full potential of their workforce.
Trying to incorporate best practices like establishing a clear protocol for meetings, encouraging alternative communication channels, and fostering an asynchronous work culture is a good way to start.
Tools like Wudpecker are not just conveniences in this context—they become crucial in maintaining the flow of information and ensuring that meetings are as productive as possible when they do occur.
When meetings are unavoidable, there are still ways to make them more effective: preparation, focused discussion, clear action items, leveraging technology, and seeking feedback.
With these strategies in place, each meeting becomes a valuable touchpoint that drives progress, enhances collaboration, and respects the most precious resource in any organization—time.
Reducing the amount of time people have to think to themselves "this meeting could have been an email" is not just about cutting down the number of meetings, but about improving the quality of interactions we choose to have. In this blog, we have provided a roadmap to navigate these decisions effectively.
Let's make the next meeting count.
Could this meeting have been an email?
If the meeting's goal was to simply share information that doesn't require immediate feedback or collaborative input, then yes, it could have been an email or a chat message.
How do you announce a meeting via email?
A meeting announcement should include the meeting's purpose, agenda, expected attendees, date, time, duration, and location (physical or virtual). It's also helpful to specify any preparation required from the participants.
Date: [Insert Date]
Time: [Insert Start Time] - [Insert End Time]
Location: [Specify if it's an in-person or virtual meeting and provide necessary details or links]
[Clearly articulate the overarching goal or objective of the meeting]
- [Key point or question 1]
- [Key point or question 2]
- [Key point or question 3]
[Define what a successful outcome of the meeting would look like]
[List names of those required to attend the meeting]
[Any additional notes or comments that participants should be aware of before the meeting]