Through the years, I have sat through (and endured) many meetings and presentations, only to note the speaker could have succinctly wrapped up the topic or main points in 20 minutes. Even if you have the conference room reserved for an hour, if you can accomplish your work in less time do it. The attendees will probably appreciate the extra time to return to their projects. This is why I have a hard time listening to talk/sports radio and cable news: they are masters at taking a two-minute story and turning it into 30. Those people love to hear themselves speak.
Once I heard someone recommend, “You need to concise your words.” Now, while this man’s grammar was nails-on-the-chalkboard-irritatingly-wrong, his point was right. Say what you need and move on. Brevity has its advantages.
When I speak with business people about what they think could make meetings more effective, wasting time is often cited as a big problem. An entrepreneurial friend has a jam-packed calendar: client meetings, work, volunteer projects and home life. When she enters a meeting, she expects to get to the order of business immediately, assign tasks and accomplish work. A few years ago, she volunteered with an advocacy group where she began to notice a pattern. At meetings, the members spent the first 15 minutes on idle chitchat before they got down to work. After awhile, she expressed her preference to get started on time and asked that they move forward accordingly.
Apparently, some members took offense because at the next meeting a condescending remark was made to the effect the group needed to get to the agenda because “someone” didn’t have time to waste. The insinuation was that starting a meeting on time was poor business etiquette; somehow socializing during the meeting was more appropriate than before or after. At that point, my friend realized the group wasn’t going to be effective. She didn’t have time to waste. While she wanted to volunteer for the worthy cause, she made the decision to move on and find another group that valued its members’ time.
Wasting time in meetings isn’t unusual. I’ve known people who like to schedule meetings for meeting sake or just to get out of their cubicle for a while. Unfortunately, not everyone feels the same way. How many times have you walked out of a meeting wondering if anything was accomplished? Maybe you shouldn’t have been invited or the meeting coordinator was ill-prepared or you squandered 20 minutes waiting for stragglers.
Don’t be afraid to communicate constructive feedback. Let the meeting organizer know the issues or challenges. Your insight could help ensure that future meetings are productive.
What do you find as the biggest time wasters?