The Dreaded Business Meeting

Are you fed up of attending meetings that achieve little or nothing?

What irritates you most about meetings?

Is it eager colleagues who answer their mobile phone when it rings, or tired employees who drift off during a presentation? If you notice these disturbances in your office, you’re not alone.

A recent study (Opinion Research USA) found that disorganised, rambling meetings topped the list of meeting annoyances at 27 percent.

Employees who interrupt their peers and try to dominate conversation during the meeting followed at 17 percent.

Interestingly, while mobile phone interruptions came in at 16 percent, frustrations over people checking BlackBerries only measured about 5 percent. Other pet irritations include people falling asleep in meetings, lack of refreshments and meetings without bathroom breaks.

I am surprised that late starts to meetings don’t feature in the survey – and even more surprised that meetings that over-run aren’t also higher up the list. Perhaps it is just that thing shave got so bad in this respect that people no longer notice or care? I was recently working with a medium sized organisation with a middle management team of about 20. It was obvious to me that the culture was to expect meetings to start late and end even later. People would drift in at the meeting start time and then make a cup of tea – or go on the mobile. When a meeting finally convened, typically at least 10 minutes after the planned start time a couple of stragglers would usually still arrive late.

I asked what might happen if at the very next meeting the Chief Exec ran, were she to start on time – regardless of who was in the room – and after the meeting gave every latecomer personal feedback about her expectations of timely start to meetings. The first person to respond said ‘I would think she was a bit of a plonker!’

There was a silence and then someone else said ‘Well I suppose it would be quite professional’.

In my book – not only would it be very professional – but also within a few days the entire culture of the organisation could be changed with respect to meetings.