Meetings have long been tagged as the bane of corporate life. They get maligned for devouring time, not generating results, or pulling people away from pressing tasks.
Yet, there is a reason that meetings endure—even in an era in which the traditional in-person gathering has shifted to video-conferencing or a hybrid blend of some in the room and others calling in.
Meetings have staying power because they can add real value to your business. They can be a highly effective way to build unity and alignment, brainstorm fresh ideas, and chart a plan of action to execute on key projects and initiatives.
The key is to take proactive steps to make your meetings more effective by consistently gathering feedback and measuring the results to make sure you’re hosting meetings that matter.
At its best, an effective meeting is one that accomplishes its predetermined goal, and allows for a healthy and inclusive exchange of ideas within the amount of time scheduled. The most effective meetings:
Start on time: While at times you’ll need to wait a few minutes for everyone to arrive, it’s best practice to start diving into the substance of your meeting no later than five minutes into your scheduled time. That way you’re not wasting others’ time or risking your meeting running late. If it looks like you are headed into overtime, wrap it up and follow up with next steps via email or other channels.
Stay on track: There’s nothing wrong with some good-natured banter at the start of the meeting, but it’s essential to then get onto business to fulfill the purpose of the meeting. An agenda is a must-have for all meetings to make sure you stay on track and on time. If the meeting gets derailed or people start getting off topic, you can refer back to the agenda to get things back on track.
Include only the essential people: Invite-creep is a real thing, and it can do serious damage to the flow of a meeting. Inviting people who go beyond your need-to-be there list wastes everyone’s time and increases the chance that you won’t get everything accomplished—or, depending on who is in the room—discourage people from openly sharing their thoughts and opinions.
Achieve the stated objective: Every meeting, even the seemingly routine, should have a clear purpose and pre-stated objectives to be accomplished before the meeting ends. Make sure you are realistic with the time you have available so you can fully discuss key issues before making a decision or moving on.
It’s important not to confuse efficiency with effectiveness. A meeting can start and end on time and have the right people involved, but if it does not have a clear purpose then it won’t generate any real value for your business.
Additionally, make sure you are consistently making adjustments to assure that those attending online have a positive meeting experience and can fully participate. A recent survey conducted by SurveyMonkey found that virtual meetings are here to stay, pandemic or not.
When meetings run smoothly and efficiently and achieve a stated purpose, they can generate a wide array of benefits for both your company and employees. Those benefits can include:
Boosted productivity: Decisions, brainstorms, and action plans that emerge from meetings can help boost productivity and efficiency, both through recommended actions as well as deeply engaging and motivating key players.
Greater collaboration: Well-run meetings can inspire greater team collaboration—both among those who attend the meetings, as well as through actions that result from decisions made during key meetings. This stronger collaboration can lead to:
Poorly run meetings can hamper efficiency, morale, and trust. Among the key consequences of ineffective meetings are:
Loss of time: If people are leaving your meeting muttering “I’ll never get this hour back,” then you have a problem. Meetings that start late, run long, and don’t have a clear agenda and purpose can be a waste of time, hurting productivity and efficiency.
Loss of money: It’s true that in business, time is money, and if your meetings are not accomplishing anything meaningful, you’re wasting both. In fact, ineffective meetings cost employers an estimated $37 billion a year.
Lower morale and engagement: Ineffective meetings can result in workplace conflict, a decline in innovation, increased employee turnover, and longer sales cycles.
To consistently ensure your meetings are hitting the mark, you’ll need to consistently measure meeting effectiveness. Gathering feedback can tell you if your meeting was useful and yielded positive outcomes and whether those attending were engaged throughout.
Surveys allow you to collect data and draw conclusions that can lead to better meetings and stronger engagement. A great place to start is by using a meeting feedback survey template that allows participants to weigh in on several factors that go into an efficient and effective meeting. You can also draw from common post-event survey questions to gain deeper insights on your meetings via surveys.
Issues that you can gather feedback on include:
If you notice that your meetings often run past the end time, ask yourself these questions:
Who shows up—and who doesn’t—is another quick and easy way to indicate how effective your meetings are. How many employees did you invite to the meeting? Out of that number, how many actually attended? While some people may truly be unavailable to attend your meeting, if you notice that some team members make a habit of skipping, this could be a clear sign that there is a problem with your meeting culture.
To ensure that meetings are conducive to everyone, you can distribute surveys to your employees to help you understand what’s working and what isn’t.
It’s best practice to end a meeting with action items—decisions and deadlines that participants agreed upon during the meeting. But to get to this point, you have to make sure that you have clearly defined the goals, objectives, and desired outcomes.
Setting goals not only helps to keep the meeting on track, but also ensures that every participant knows what the end game is. Additionally, they keep people focused and make the meeting as productive as possible.
Some examples of meeting goals include planning, brainstorming or problem solving, decision-making, relationship and culture building, reflection, check-ins, and collaboration.
Once goals are established, you can then focus on the objectives—defined strategies or specific steps to meet the identified goals. Make sure your objectives are aligned with your overall goal, and don’t forget to include any deadlines.
Using an agenda can help you understand how effective your meeting was. After the meeting, compare the agenda with the number of topics that were actually covered—how well was the agenda followed? Were there a number of topics covered that weren’t part of the agenda? If so, it could mean the agenda didn’t include areas that were of value to the participants. It could also indicate that there were unnecessary tangents or you went down rabbit holes that distracted participants from the key issues at hand.
To ensure that your agenda is covering the right topics, consider distributing a survey prior to or following the meeting. This way, you can keep one ear on the ground so that you know what topics are most important to employees.
Generally speaking, when people are given the chance to contribute their ideas and opinions, they feel more included in the conversation and therefore more likely to participate and stay engaged in meetings.
Surveys allow you to collect data from a number of sources and draw conclusions, which is why they’re such an important tool to use when measuring meeting effectiveness. The types of questions that you ask in your surveys will give employees the chance to provide you with their honest opinions and candid feedback, but can also provide insight into how your meetings are being received. Surveys are also helpful because you can use them to create online polls to coordinate meetings, as opposed to sending out and receiving multiple emails or having to track people down.
Some suggested questions that you can ask in your meeting effectiveness survey include:
As we discussed earlier, starting later than the scheduled time may create a conflict for some or all participants. Remember to schedule enough time to allow for plenty of discussion and questions. If there isn’t enough time, you can suggest continuing the conversation in a one-on-one meeting or in the next team meeting. Some survey questions could include:
Realistically, not everyone you invite to your meeting will attend. However, if you notice that meeting attendance is low, you may want to look into areas like how your meeting is conducted and what topics are being discussed. Potential survey questions include:
This area captures how participants were feeling throughout the meeting. This is the time where they can share their thoughts and opinions, so consider asking open-ended questions and providing additional space for them to leave comments. Survey questions could include:
When it comes to employee satisfaction and meeting effectiveness, the two go hand in hand. When employees enjoy their work they are more likely to attend and engage in meetings. On the flip side, how your employees experience meetings can also impact their overall satisfaction at work. The following questions can help gauge employee satisfaction:
You may want to dig deeper to gain more perspective from your meeting participants. If so, here are some examples of additional meeting effectiveness survey questions.
Meeting surveys don’t need to be long or complicated. Here are some tips for efficiently getting the feedback you need.
Keep it simple: No need to ask really complex questions. Surveys are meant to be quick, so if employees have to spend too much time answering one question, they may be less likely to complete the rest of the survey.
Don’t ask too many specific questions: When you ask questions that are too specific, you take away your team’s opportunity to answer questions freely and honestly. Questions that are too specific may drive them to provide responses that they think you want—and not what they actually believe.
Get someone else to review your questions. It is always helpful to have an extra set of eyes reviewing your work before submitting it to your staff. Whoever reviews your survey can look to make sure that the language is clear and concise, that it is inclusive, and that there are no biases.
While the concept of measuring the effectiveness of your meetings might be new to you, it can be a real game-changer moving forward. Ineffective meetings can cost time, money, and lead to lower morale and productivity.
By taking a data-driven approach to understanding your meeting effectiveness, you can identify areas of improvement and consistently improve the effectiveness of your meetings.
Through meeting feedback surveys, you can make your meetings must-attend events where people exchange ideas, develop targeted action plans, and leave smarter and better prepared than when they arrived. SurveyMonkey has a range of solutions to help you become a meeting maestro, including a Zoom integration that can help you gather feedback from attendees to make meetings more productive.