Meeting Overload: Could This Be An Email?

3 minute read

April 19, 2022

Meeting Overload: Could This Be An Email?

Over the past few years the way many people work has changed dramatically. Some became full time remote workers, with others moving to more of a hybrid model. Though the flexibility has been great for many, for those who were used to in person interaction, it’s been a struggle adjusting. 

To try and keep some semblance of normalcy, many people turned to virtual meeting software like Teams and Zoom to connect with others in real-time. Once people got comfortable with those tools, they actually made meeting with others easier than ever. Though that fact has a lot of positives, there’s one major downside: there have been a lot more meetings. 

Research shows that the number of meetings someone has has increased around 20% in the last two years, with 45% of people saying they feel overwhelmed by the number of meetings they attend. Further, most people – 57% – think at least some of those meetings aren’t needed at all.

Recently on the GGR podcast, Jay Nathan, Jeff Breunsbach, and Kristi Faltorusso discussed those dreaded meetings that could have been emails. It gave me some food for thought on how best to deal with meetings, and how to run them.

Though meetings as a whole aren’t going anywhere, there are ways you can do your best to reduce the meeting count. Below are seven tactics to try and also a few best practices for when a meeting is needed. 

Set guidelines 

It’s hard to know exactly what counts as “meeting worthy.” And, depending on your team, and place of work, that definition could vary. Instead of making people guess, consider creating some guidelines for when to conduct a meeting, or when to use a different means of communicating. 

Consider an async option 

Over the last few years the idea of asynchronous work has become more prevalent. With more distributed teams, and people working non-standard hours, it can make life a whole lot easier for everyone involved. Tools like Slack, or Google Docs are great ways to work asynchronously with others. By moving to one of those communication channels, you’re able to remove a meeting and still keep momentum.

Only invite people who are totally needed

How many times have you been in a meeting where there are 10 attendees, but it seems like only three of them are talking? Carefully consider anyone you’re inviting to a meeting to make sure they really need to be there. If not, you can draft a recap of what was covered and send it out to others who are peripherally involved. It doesn’t eliminate the meeting entirely, but does eliminate the meeting for some. 

Reconsider recurring meetings

Whether it’s a weekly standup, or some other type of “check-in” meeting, you should take time to consider what the true value is. If people are simply offering status updates, it’s probably something that could live elsewhere. You could also poll your team to see if they find value in those meetings. If the answer is no, say goodbye. 

Record the meetings you have

Sometimes there are meetings to simply catch people up on other meetings they may have missed. Tio combat that, you can simply record the original meeting. Tools like Zoom and Teams have a recording option. After the meeting you can download the file and share it with anyone who wasn’t able to attend live. 

Have a “meeting free day” 

One of the best ways to eliminate meetings is by having a day where they’re not allowed. Fridays tend to be good, as it’s not super common to start on a new project at the end of a work week. You do have to be careful that it doesn’t just end up shifting  

For the times when a meeting is unavoidable… 

For most, it’s probably not an option to eliminate meetings entirely. And sometimes they really are needed, and those participating do benefit greatly. To ensure the meetings you do have are a success, consider the these three tips:

  • Have an agenda – Having a stated agenda can help keep a meeting moving in the right direction and limit distractions. You should also share it out ahead of time so people can prepare accordingly, to make the meeting as productive as possible. 

  • Only invite those who are needed – We mentioned this above, but it’s important enough to mention again. Make sure you’re critical about who you invite to a meeting. Unless someone’s totally essential, leave them off the list.  

  • Err on the side of brevity – When scheduling a meeting try to be as precise as possible for the length. If you only need 15 minutes, schedule 15 minutes. Almost nobody will be sad that the meeting isn’t longer. 

Moving forward

For most of us, meetings are unavoidable. Though that’s a fact that probably won’t change anytime soon, it doesn’t mean there aren’t some meetings that can be cut. For the ones that do need to happen, we can be more thoughtful and help make sure they’re as productive as possible. 

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Nuala Cronin

Written by Nuala Cronin

Nuala is the Content Marketing Manager at Vanilla by Higher Logic. She has adored writing since a young age and graduated with a Master's Degree in Publishing and Literature from the National University of Ireland, Galway.

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