5 Ways to Know If Your Business Meeting Is a Complete Waste of Time.

Let's face it. Most business meetings are a waste of time.

They really are.

It's 3:15 on a Friday afternoon and you get that call from your spouse. The car is packed, the kids are watching a movie, and the beach is 2 hours away.

"Uhhhh.... any way you can get out of the office a little early?"

But you know.

"Yeah -- that's not going to happen."

See, you have one more meeting.

And chances are that meeting is a complete waste of your time.

But your butt needs to be in the conference room come hell or high water. Your boss wants "brass tacks" and you're lucky enough to be one of the 18 attendees in the appointment request.

You've been there.

Fingers crossed that the meeting would end early so that you could run to the coffee stand before your next meeting begins.

Ahh... the endless downward spiral of business efficiency. That run from meeting to meeting to meeting until the clock strikes 5PM.

But meetings don't need to suck.

Getting smart people together in the same room should be a great way to boost productivity. Right?

So why are meetings such a mess?

1. They last way longer than our attention span

We can't even watch a funny TV show for longer than 15-20 minutes without a break. And yet we schedule in 60 minutes for our default meeting length. And we find ourselves walking away from the meeting hating life and the morons who chained us to the conference room table long past any pulse emanating from the room.

Shorter is better. Try forcing meetings into 15 minutes at a time. It forces each party to be succinct, over-prepared, and mostly interesting.

2. Nobody knows why they are really there

You show up because you are on the invite, but you don't know if you need to come prepared or just show up with the appropriate amount of "ass covering" date-and-time data. Right? This unclearness creates a sense of fiefdoms, fear, and unproductive "meeting reconnaissance". You want to hear what people said about you so you make sure that you waste the entire 60 minutes listening in.

Be clear about expectations – very clear. Only demand that the essential parties attend. And make sure that each party understands "why" they are there and "what" they need to be prepared to do.

3. The material you present looks dog-eared

The night before the meeting you duck into your obligatory PowerPoint session and whip together 13-17 slides each with 7-8 bullet points. At it looks ugly, unprofessional, and flat-put uninspired. You know it's half-ass. And so does the rest of the group suffering through your poorly prepared pitch. Sexy sells. Spend some time making your presentation interesting. And the same thing applies to your handouts. There are lots of easy ways to do this.

Stop using bullet points. Limit yourself to 30pt font. Use pictures. Heck, you can even try out a few different themes that come pre-bundled with your software. Take a few moments to focus on being unexpected. Being memorable. You'll have people remembering more of your content.

4. Tasks and responsibilities are needlessly unclear

“All good?” The famous last words of a meeting bent for oblivion.

And yet we find ourselves wrapping up a meeting with obscure references like this. And of course everyone nods and dashes madly out the door before you start thinking about ways to delay ending the meeting. But you’ll check back in a few days or a week and find that not one of the tasks and responsibilities you thought were clear are being worked on at all.

Review anything you want particular meeting attendees to be accountable for. Name by name, task by task – make sure that everyone knows that game plan. You owe to yourself and everyone else involved to make sure that you aren’t just meeting to meet. Be clear. You’ll get more done.

5. The meetings wasn't needed in the first place

Sadly this happens way too often. Instead of sending emails around to check on progress, you decide that spending the first hour of the working day together is a great way to check in on progress. Hmmmm….

Cancel as many meetings as possible. And force meeting planners to serve up an agenda ahead of attending the meeting. By the way, if you have to attend meetings that you don’t think you can add any value to, ask if you can opt out. And be clear that you don’t see how you can add anything.

Stop having bad meetings.

But be cool about it.

The next time you get drafted for a meeting, you might not be able to tell the Chairman of your company that you want out to head to the beach (and that his meeting sucks).

But you can be a smarter "meeter" and make sure you arrive prepared with classy notes and a task pad to note responsibilities and timelines.

Heck, you might even crown yourself the official “Meeting Fixer” at your company.

This post was originally written (a week ago) for the savvy tech team at MightyMeeting who are trying to help people have better meetings using their mobile technology. I re-read it, got inspired, and thought you might enjoy…