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3 Reasons Why Modern Meetings Fail—and How to Make Them Productive


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Despite the many changes happening today in the modern workforce (new generations, technologies, and cultures), one aspect of work has managed to endure: meetings. In fact, meetings today haven’t really changed from the meetings our parents and grandparents experienced in their companies. They still follow the same format and are often mandatory, frequent, and disruptive to the myriad other tasks on our plate. 

The truth is, modern organizations are still falling prey to unproductive meetings, and it’s costing businesses an estimated $37 billion every year in lost revenue. Research also shows that 51% of professionals feel meetings and calls take too much time out of their day to complete other tasks.

So what’s causing our meetings to be such productivity black holes, draining us of our time and energy? Let’s take a look at the three main reasons:

1. Attention spans are evolving to be more selective

If you’ve ever seen in an hour-long meeting, chances are that sitting through the entire thing felt like quite a mission. You’re not alone. Studies show that 90% of people report daydreaming during meetings, and 73% report doing other work during meetings. But that hour-long Netflix show? We binge-watched the entire season in a day.

The attention span of today’s workers—35% of which are Millennials—has evolved to be much more selective, but meetings are still stuck in the past. Six out of 10 professionals say they can give a piece of content their undivided attention more than they could a year ago, suggesting that our attention spans aren’t shrinking, but simply more high maintenance than they used to be. The problem is our meetings haven’t caught up with our changing habits. If we continue with conventional meetings, there won’t be anyone listening in another 10 years.

2. Too many meetings that accomplish nothing

In an email to employees at Tesla, Elon Musk made his view on meetings very clear: “Excessive meetings are the blight of big companies and almost always get worse over time. Please get [out] of all large meetings, unless you’re certain they are providing value to the whole audience, in which case keep them very short.”

Meetings need to produce clear outcomes to be effective, but our calendars today are filled to the brim with meetings that accomplish nothing. For example, let’s say a meeting was planned in preparation for the next phase of a project. When everyone gathers for the meeting, you learn that the previous phase got delayed and the project hasn’t finished. But instead of canceling the meeting, the facilitator decides to use this time to discuss tangentially related topics. In the end, no clear decisions have been made, nor clear outcomes achieved as a result.

3. Poor meeting etiquette

When meetings take place, they require participants to be on their best behavior. But too many meetings fall victim to poor meeting etiquette. Think about the last time someone critical showed up late to your meeting or attendees’ conversations veered off on a tangent and you were forced to keep listening. 

In reality, meetings require respect from both participants and leaders. While participants should clearly understand the rules of each meeting, facilitators need to steer conversations in the right direction. This can be a challenge for individual contributors-turned-managers, as leading meetings takes knowledge and practice. 

Learn more about meeting facilitation in our post, “5 Meeting Types and How to Perfect Them.

Add context to your meetings with an integrated messaging, video, and phone solution.

It’s time we moved away from conventional meetings and replaced them with contextual meetings. Meetings need to live within our day-to-day tasks so they complement—rather than disrupt—our workflow. That means having the right technology to give these meetings context.

Consider that you’re in a team messaging group and the leader is trying to explain a new idea. When the discussion gets too complicated and/or disorganized, a meeting is the best way to untangle the knots and drive a project forward. Ideally, the team messaging app also comes with the option to schedule and launch an online meeting—in particular, without having to ever leave the app. The video appears alongside the group discussion, providing instant context to the meeting and allowing every participant to attend without interrupting their own tasks. By placing meetings within our work, all the context we need is at our fingertips. 

The right communications solution will help today’s workers stay focused on the topic at hand. At the same time, changing our approach towards meetings will help turn ideas into results and ensure your organization never suffers from unproductive meetings again.

Learn more about how RingCentral’s unified solution for messaging, video, and phone adds context to every meeting and supercharges your productivity.

Want to learn more about transforming your meetings? Check out The Meeting Rebuilt for the 21st Century.

Originally published Apr 06, 2020, updated Jan 18, 2023

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