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Making Meetings Better: How to Improve the Bane of Workers' Existence



Practically the only thing that gets as much bad press as business meetings are root canals. The difference is a root canal eventually ends; the jury’s still out on meetings. But the early returns are not encouraging—in a recent survey, 9 out of ten workers said they would prefer to interact in any other way than meetings.

Love them or loathe, though, meetings are an inescapable fact of business life. They're also a very necessary evil for most workers, according to a survey of 800 knowledge workers conducted by WebEx, the online meetings arm of Cisco. Representing companies with between one and 500 employees, the respondents said they found meetings good for sharing key data (80 percent), brainstorming and problem-solving (64 percent) and building relationships (57 percent).

The downside of meetings, respondents said, included the feeling nothing gets accomplished (60 percent), the sense that there's no clear agenda (50 percent) and the fact that needed people don't attend (42 percent).

Regardless, the survey found, workers spend more time in meetings than in any other form of business interaction, including email, telephone calls, social media and instant messaging (IM).

"No one will ever see a bumper sticker that says 'I wish I was in a meeting,'" said Deborah Holstein, a senior director in Cisco's Collaboration Software Group. "Yet meetings are the currency of our working life. We have all experienced being a victim of a bad meeting—one which is poorly run or without key people in the room. But, as this research shows, it is through meetings that relationships are built and true innovation happens."

And, Cisco says, even when meetings are mandatory, they don't have to make people miserable. The key is to plan out how you will manage your meetings.

You should always have an agenda that includes specific goals, said Holstein. Be open to new contributors and brainstorming, but stick to the plan. You should also consider a change-up in meeting format, Holstein said, such as holding a standing meeting where sitting is not allowed. It can help keep a team focused on addressing critical issues.

Staging your meetings online using one of the online meeting services available can also help keep all participants on the same page by ensuring all members of the team see and hear the same thing at the same time, Holstein said.

Reach BusinessNewsDaily senior writer Ned Smith at Follow him on Twitter @nedbsmith.



Ned Smith

Ned was senior writer at Sweeney Vesty, an international consulting firm, and was Vice President of communications for iQuest Analytics. Before that, he has been a web editor and managed the Internet and intranet sites for Citizens Communications. He began his journalism career as a police reporter with the Roanoke (Va.) Times, and was managing editor of American Way magazine and senior editor of Us. He was a Captain in the U.S. Air Force and has a masters in journalism from the University of Arizona.