Meetings Have Been Broken for a While. It’s Time for Leaders To Change This

Bill Macaitis, Growth advisor, former CMO at Zendesk & Slack, former SVP at Salesforce, on how leaders can change their meeting culture for the better.

Slido Team
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The last year has brought plenty of changes to our working lives and our meetings. But the reality is that meetings have been broken for a while.

It’s an area that has stayed static and overlooked for too long. This makes no sense, given the business-critical nature of running good meetings.

Think about it – the majority of employees spend the majority of their time in meetings.

Is their time in meetings spent well?

Meetings are undoubtedly a core fundamental aspect of any company.

However, far too many meetings are ineffective – unproductive meetings cost US businesses around $37 billion a year.

To start with, there are too many of them – it’s all too easy for managers to call meetings without thinking about the literal cost of their team’s time.

Most are too long, as we try and replicate our in-office behavior virtually with traditional 30- and 60-minute time slots.

Finally, the majority are simply badly run, with attendees unengaged and unfocused.

Businesses, and leaders, have a big opportunity now to revolutionize the concept of meetings, with virtual working behavior having been fast-forwarded by the pandemic.

Technology shapes the future of meetings

The clear solution to many of these problems is technology. Companies need meetings. They are fundamental to communication, co-operation, and decision-making.

So why wouldn’t you use available tech to improve them?

Polling, interactive conversation, emoji reactions, and recording and transcribing options are just some of the ways tech can make meetings fundamentally better.

This can bring positive disruption to your meetings, so team leaders should be open-minded about how the tech can work for different groups.

For example, virtual meetings might level the playing field. Everyone is now clear about the importance of getting logistics such as lighting and sound right for the benefit of all attendees, not just a few.

Plus, everyone literally takes up the same amount of space on a screen, versus groups dialing in together.

How can leaders change their meeting culture?

In order to truly make meetings better in a remote or hybrid world, leaders will need to develop the right skills to run a good virtual meeting.

Facilitating, particularly virtually, relies heavily on communication skills. So being a good communicator, engaging an audience, and creating a dialogue with all attendees (not just the loudest!) will be key.

If you want to succeed in your career then you will need to be good at facilitating, so spending time learning the craft will be critical for career success.

It will also rise up the priority list when businesses are hiring. Smart businesses will place more value on qualities such as empathy that contribute to good facilitating, as well as good leadership.

Businesses will need to address existing skills gaps around facilitation with training, to contribute positively to the company’s meeting culture.

The long-term impact of meetings

If businesses don’t take the right steps to make these changes, this will undoubtedly impact talent. The number one reason employees tend to leave companies is their manager and it is often managers holding the meetings they spend their days in.

This makes meeting culture key to talent retention, as well as long-term engagement and productivity.

Embracing changes to meetings such as tech integration also allows you to get the most out of your employees.

You’ll be able to engage with all types of thinkers and personality types, democratizing meetings and ensuring everyone feels respected and listened to.

There is also an important relationship between good virtual meetings and company culture.

The relationships we form and the culture of a business are critical to success – it’s what gets people excited at work. Anyone who says you can only create these relationships and social capital in person is wrong.

There are plenty of examples of it being done well virtually, both in the last year and before. I’ve worked in businesses operating entirely remotely and businesses that embrace a more hybrid flexible culture and remote working has never been a barrier to relationship building.

There might be pushback from those who have only ever worked in offices, but the companies who embrace the change will be in a much better position.

What it does mean is that meetings take on an extra level of importance, because they become the only time employees gather together. Doing them right is more critical than ever before.

Final thoughts

The changes over the last year have given leaders a platform to make changes to meetings and meeting culture that can future-proof businesses.

The world needs more good meetings, no doubt about it. The tools to make that a reality are here – the responsibility to make that happen sits with our leaders.

This article was written by Bill Macaitis, growth advisor, former CMO at Zendesk & Slack, former SVP at Salesforce.

Bill is also featured in our Trend Report ‘The Online Meeting Revolution’.

In the report, you’ll discover the latest research and trends in online and hybrid meetings and pick up plenty of actionable tips for your next meeting.

Get the report here

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