Jeff Klubeck, a business consultant, said, "There’s a saying I’ve heard: “If you want to kill time, a MEETING is the perfect weapon!” We ALL attend meetings…many of us conduct them…and...

Jeff Klubeck, a business consultant, said, "There’s a saying I’ve heard: “If you want to kill time, a MEETING is the perfect weapon!” We ALL attend meetings…many of us conduct them…and we have ALL had the experience/feeling of our time being “wasted” due to bad meetings. Hopefully, you have also had the opposite experience of carefully prepared, fully executed and completely motivating or productive meetings too. But let’s face it, which is MOST common? The bad ones! So why are most meetings bad and too many meetings REALLY bad?" Good questions, Jeff! So, why do you think most meetings are bad? What can be done to make them better? What are some alternatives to traditional meetings?

Expert Answers
pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are a number of reasons why business meetings are “bad.”  These reasons generally have to do with the mindsets of the people who are in the meetings.  Because it is hard to change the way people think, it is hard to make meetings better.  However, it is possible to use technology (and some other techniques) to improve and/or replace meetings.

When people go to meetings, they typically go in with an unproductive attitude.  They are conditioned to think that meetings are a waste of time and so they act in ways that make their prediction come true.  One reason why people think that meetings are a waste of time is because meetings tend to go too long.  Meetings go long because people often fail to stay on topic as they talk.  The meetings also go on too long because people do not really understand how much money they are wasting their organizations by having long meetings.  All of these factors combine to create a situation in which people go into meetings with negative attitudes and behave in ways that make these attitudes self-fulfilling.

The problems with meetings extend past the time when the meeting ends.  Often, people leave the meetings and then do nothing to carry out the decisions, if any, that were made.  One reason for this is that people often have different views of what happened at the meeting.  They often take away different ideas about what was agreed upon.

It may be possible to get around some of these problems using technology.  Technology can reduce some of the time and expense of convening meetings because it is possible to do things like working on shared documents rather than having meetings.  If people work on a shared document, they can be sure that what they are doing is important.  When they are finished with the document, they will have something that they can all consult, which will make it less likely that they will all have different ideas about what they need to do next.  This makes shared document creation an alternative to some kinds of meetings.

Of course, not all meetings can be replaced in this way.  Therefore, it may make sense for businesses to innovate and have less traditional meetings.  For example, they might have meetings that are set to last for a (brief) defined duration at the beginning of a work day.  This would help to ensure that the people running the meetings would stick to the essentials and trim any “fat” from what they are doing.  A company might also keep track of the time that is spent in meetings.  This would give them a clear view of how much the meetings are costing them in terms of wages for the attendees.  These changes, taken together, could help to improve the quality of meetings to some degree.

William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Any company is just a name with a bunch of people saying, "I represent the Bank of America," or "I represent General Motors," or whatever. The company itself is just buildings and furniture. I believe that the purpose of most meetings is to bring employees together to remind them that they are parts of a company, cogs in the wheels, and that they all work for the same company. They need these constant reminders that they are all members of the same organization. Otherwise they could all go off in separate directions. What they talk about at these meetings may not be as important as the fact that they all have to look at each other and be reminded of who they are and what they are. They need to be reminded that they have a common identity and a common purpose, which is to promote the interests of the company. Meetings serve the purpose of bringing a lot of employees together at a specific place and a specific time. Men and women have to be appropriately dressed, clean, wide-awake, and sober. Those who don't show up are conspicuously absent and arouse questions about their loyalty. People are individuals with selfish interests. Some may be thinking of starting their own businesses or going to work for a different company and taking clients and secrets with them. A company could easily fall apart if the individual members were not constantly reminded of their common identity and their place in the hierarchy. If they get a cup of coffee and a Danish pastry at one of these meetings, it is symbolic of the fact that they are nourished by the company they work for. Their success depends upon the company's success, and vice versa. Meetings are rituals like going to church on Sunday. Meetings give the people in attendance the message that they belong and that they are being watched and judged. Meetings may not accomplish anything, but all organizations have them--and probably all for the same reason.

chrisyhsun | Student

I think a big reason for meetings to "not work" is because not everyone is on the same page. This might be in terms of background knowledge. If the meeting is called to discuss a specific issue and you have a people with varying levels of understanding about the issue in the meeting, it's difficult to construct and plan a meeting that caters to everyone's understanding. You might want to go over the issue first in which case those who understand it already are going to be tired of listening to things they already know, or you might try to dive right into the issue, in which case those who haven't been as involved with the issue will feel lost and pointless. Another way that prevents people from being on the same page is if they are not given a clear purpose for the meeting. In my experiences, when people are more focused when given specific goals to work on, and this same concept applies to meetings. If people walk in without knowing the purpose, they think that it is going to be a waste of time because they can be doing something else that they do know the purpose of. Of course, if people walk into the meeting with different ideas of what they are trying to accomplish, it will not be productive and neither "side" will walk out feeling like they finished what they aimed to complete.

rachellopez | Student

I feel like most meeting are just someone talking to a group of people. There needs to be more interaction between the workers as well as hearing different ideas. When one person speaks for a long time, it can get pretty boring.

Also, meetings become more boring when the workers have a low morale. If people aren't excited to go then the meeting will not be exciting. People have to make them exciting by planning "activities" that will be both fun and productive. Use technology or props instead of just a plain power point presentation. 

I haven't attended many meetings in my lifetime, but I do know that they can be boring if you just have to sit around and listen.