5 Meeting Time Wasters—and What to do About Them

bored guy head in hands

By Andrea Driessen, Chief Boredom Buster

Meetings can become boring when attendees feel their time is disrespected and their contributions are underappreciated. Let’s look at five most common ways meetings suck our time—and what to do instead.

1.     Meetings without end goals.

How do you know when you’re finished with your meeting, if you haven’t set a goal for it in the first place?  Meetings are often scheduled out of habit or obligation—not because there is a pressing problem to solve as a group. Further, meetings in which little or no progress is felt can seem to drone on with no end in sight.

Instead, before and during the gathering, give your audience a clear picture of where you’re headed, and what your meeting is accomplishing. For example, post a meeting check list, with clear milestones. And as time goes on, visually and audibly show that you have in fact reached these hurdles. Even small wins, accompanied by public acknowledgement (a tangible reward, an audible ping, a loud bell), can—in the language of a good video game—move your meeting forward, and your organization to a higher level of teamwork and productivity.

2.     The wrong people at the table.

Take time to ensure that everyone you invite to your meeting—whether it’s a small team huddle or an all-hands conclave—has a business-driven need to be there. If some are in the audience unnecessarily, they’re not only wasting their own time, but they can also suck energy from those whose attendance is valid.

3. Inviting subject matter experts to present—and stopping there.

Subject matter experts are critical assets in almost any meeting mix. They have their material down cold—after all, that’s why you want them to present. But such deep knowledge of a topic can also be a liability.

Audiences tend to tune out SMEs who drone on about a topic, in an attempt to communicate all they know in a short period of time. But such lengthy monologs can cause even the most interested audiences to tune out, because these SMEs’ presentations tend to be primarily about them and their knowledge base, and less about what the audience really wants and needs to succeed.

The best way to maximize your SME’s expertise and to honor your audiences’ needs: provide presentation skills coaching for your subject matter experts, and anyone who is not a professional speaker. But not just ANY presentation skills coaching. Some of the best:  “Don’t Break your Breakout,” as it’s all about crafting and delivering programs your audiences WANT to hear.

4.     Speakers who present content that the audience already knows.

Of course, no one registers for an event or comes in the room thinking, “I hope there will be a great deal of information, slides and data.” Or “Let’s see if the educational sessions focus on what I already know.”

Because business meetings are so pervasive, many meeting hosts think they can spend precious time discussing facts, figures and initiatives that many or all already know—and expect attendees to pay attention. But if the material covered is already common knowledge, why should everyone tune in? Under such circumstances, even the least important texts coming in on their phones serve to happily distract from the tedious agenda in the room.

What attendees really want, and what will keep them engaged, are: ways to solve their most pressing problems.  Progressing toward important milestones. Getting tools for increased productivity. Connecting with others who’ll make positive differences in their lives.

So next time you’re planning a meeting, no matter its size, ask: does the audience already know ______? If the answer is yes, see how you can transform that piece into something more compelling to help drive registration and engagement. Then you’ll turn the meeting experience into a not-to-be-missed event.

5.     Not taking time to review key concepts.

If your meeting participants are not given the chance to revisit and review content periodically throughout the meeting, they may as well have been absent from the meeting. And then all the preparation, education and expense were for naught.

The most cutting-edge brain science proves that whether you’re a meeting planner or a meeting goer, important take aways must be repeated to be remembered—within two hours of the first exposure. Or you might as well….forget it!

So, taking that cue, let’s review: five top meeting time wasters:

  1. Meetings without end goals.
  2. The wrong people at the table.
  3. Inviting subject matter experts to present—and stopping there.
  4. Speakers who present content the audience already knows.
  5. Not taking time to review key concepts.

What’s YOUR #1 meeting time waster—and your solution?