Meetings: Turning The Unproductive Into Productive

Adriana Girdler

A simple yet successful idea Welcome back to my two part blog on Meetings to Change the World. What’s the difference between a productive meeting …

A simple yet successful idea

meetings-need-to-changeWelcome back to my two part blog on Meetings to Change the World.

What’s the difference between a productive meeting and an unproductive meeting? First, a productive meeting has purpose. Everyone is gathered to get something done. This means no updates or status reports. Second, productive meetings are well prepared and structured. They have agendas, they use facilitation techniques to keep the conversation moving and always have a clear objective and deliverable. Sounds simple but many people don’t know how to run a productive meeting. This leads me to the simple, yet revolution idea that will change meetings forever. The solution is two folds:

#1- Institute mandatory meeting training for everyone in your organization and incorporate this training into your on-boarding program for all new employees.

#2- Ban the update and status meetings and use technology for these types of information.

I know, it’s simple, but it’s the simple ideas that are the most impactful and most revolutionary. As per the CSD study mentioned in part one of this blog, if 42% of our meetings are unproductive and if we assume that on average a busy professionals has 2 meetings/day that equates to 40 meetings per month. Out of these 40 meetings/month, 17 of these attended meetings are not productive and are wasting their time. Now translate this into cost. If the average hourly cost of a busy professional is $75/hour and if meeting average is 2 hours and 6 professional attend these meetings that equates to a cost of $900/meeting. Now times this by 17 of the unproductive meetings and we get a total cost of $15,300/month on unproductive meeting for 6 busy professionals. Now can you see how the US Bureau of statistics 2005 finding can reach 37 billion dollars? And to think, I am only assuming in house meetings let alone the cost of meetings that require travel.

Solution 1: Mandatory Meeting Training

Now that you see the importance of improving meetings, it’s critical to change behaviours. When changing behaviours you must replace one behaviour for another. Organizations must make meeting training a top priority. It’s a tool that ensures businesses reach their goals and objectives. Yet, it’s very rare to find mandatory training on meetings. The focus of this training needs to be on facilitation skills and meeting preparation for those who run meetings and how to be a productive participant in a meeting for those invited. We can’t assume that running a meeting is a natural process, it isn’t. There are certain skills that are needed: Good Facilitation and Good Participation. A good facilitator is prepared with agendas, data for the meeting, meeting deliverables, to name a few. They are also neutral and understand the importance of attendee’s participation. A well run meeting results in great meeting results. There are some great facilitators out there but the revolutionary idea is that everyone needs to be great and that with this greatness everyone is standard in their approach. Training and practice is the only thing that will ensure this happens. But it doesn’t stop there. The participant is just as critical to meeting success. They need to be training on good meeting etiquette and how to properly challenge and participate. Great meetings is a two way street. Everyone’s participation is critical for success. Because we are talking about paradigm shifting behaviour, everyone needs this training and it must be a #1 priority in organizations. This means shifting our thinking from projects/products/services to being viewed as #1 and saying that how we run meetings are #1. Without it, you projects, products and service will suffer indirectly because of unproductive meetings. It’s going to take some education and coaxing of senior leadership to make this simple but critical shift.

Solution 2: Ban the Updates and Status Meeting

Along with mandatory training to improve meeting productivity, rules around what type of meeting can be held will need to be adopted and enforced. Let me clarify, updates and status reporting is not a bad thing. In fact, we need this information to do our job. It’s how we do it. When we schedule a meeting and that is all we do or it’s the majority of the meeting, this is where we run into problems and attendees start to zone out and you have yourself an unproductive meeting.

We live in a technology rich society, so why not use these great technology tools for your updates and status reporting. For updates why not use video and/or audio updates. Everyone has a smart phone with a camera or a recording app. Ensure that you have a common location to house all your downloads with a rule that updates are to be a maximum of 3 min. This is critical from a file size perspective and the fact that our attention span is limited. Plus, it forces the updater to be specific.

For status updates you need a great task tracker that allows for comments. Empower the team to update the tracker in the comment section with their updates. The lead for this tracker can then review it and speak to individuals separately instead of doing it in a meeting.

These ideas are simple and should be implemented immediately but we are creatures of habit and need time and energy to make new ideas stick and changes to take hold. Monitoring and dedication to ensuring new ideas take root is where most organization fail. This is why these simple ideas are revolutionary. We have to change our habits and ways of thinking to make these ideas work. Technology is not the answer, but the tool. We need to change our behaviours and once we do, meetings can change the world by shifting into a more proactive and productive place to work in.


What solutions do you use to make meetings productive? Thanks for reading don’t forget to share/tweet/like our blog just underneath this paragraph. And don’t forget, we’re always here to help with your business efficiency needs.

Thanks For Sharing!

Photo of author

Adriana Girdler is a project manager, productivity specialist, entrepreneur, professional speaker, facilitator, visioning wizard, and author. As President of CornerStone Dynamics, Adriana is one of Canada’s prominent business productivity and project management specialists—helping both individuals and businesses do what they do, only better. She is a certified master black belt lean six sigma with over 20 years’ experience improving how companies work.

She also holds both PMP (project management professional) and CET (certified engineering technologist) designations. She’s a Tedx speaker, as well as a HuffPost and Thrive Global contributor. She has been interviewed on Global, CBC, CTV, CHCH, 680News Radio, Newstalk 1010, Sirius XM and published in the Globe and Mail and numerous industry magazines. WANT ADRIANA'S FREE ONLINE TRAINING? In 45 min, learn Adriana's 5 project management secrets she use on EVERY project. Sign up for the Free Webinar here: THE FAB FIVE FUNDAMENTALS OF PROJECT MANAGEMENT

SLAY Project Management

Online Course

5 Sections and 24 step-by-step HOW TO Videos! The only 5-hour on-line course that teaches you the PRACTICAL side of project management. This course will guide you step-by-step on HOW to successfully run a project and provides you with all the templates and tips you need to be successful.

Fab 5 Fundamentals

Free Training

Are you striving for successful projects, but get overwhelmed figuring out what elements of project management to focus on for the best results? In the Fab Five Fundamentals of Project Management, you’ll learn the five things you need to do on EVERY project to bring it to success.

Why Projects Fail?

Free Download

If you're new to projects or need a refresher, here's a guide of all the things I learned during my journey. Project success is about knowing how to navigate and stay clear of roadblocks, issues and problems. Understand the top 10 reasons why projects fail and how to avoid them.

Interested In Working Together?

We are business productivity experts. Contact us to learn how we can help your business become more efficient and increase profitability.

Join Our Newsletter

Join over 50,000 subscribers. Get the latest and the best in project management information delivered straight to your inbox.

Follow Us