six women in a meeting, one standing and facilitating, discussion
PHOTO: Christina Morillo / wocintechchat.com

You’ve likely experienced it yourself. You join a meeting via video and the same questions are asked repeatedly: “Can you hear me?” “Who’s on the call?” There are too many barriers to starting a meeting on time. Some estimate that the first 7 or more minutes of a meeting are lost due to technical challenges.

What companies and its employees need are ways to create frictionless meetings. Fortunately, there are solutions available today. Some are technical. Others require leadership and knowing how to create positive group dynamics.

Culprits Causing Friction in Meetings

Before we look at solutions to flawless meetings, let’s look at the culprits that create the friction.

Culprit #1: Tech Clutter

Next time you’re in a meeting, observe how many devices you use to prepare or participate in the meeting. See if this scenario resonates with your experience: To prepare for a meeting you must find the email with the attachment you need to prepare. At the meeting, from your laptop you launch the video conferencing app and use your mobile device to monitor chat messages.

Everything you need for the meeting is spread across multiple apps and stored in various locations. It shouldn’t be a surprise that people don’t come prepared to a meeting.

In this scenario alone there are six different apps used, and it’s for one meeting. There must be a way to reduce the number of apps used to prepare and participate in meetings.

Related Article: Are You Sure You Want to Schedule Another Meeting?

Culprit #2: Poor Meeting Facilitation

In one study, 65% of senior managers said meetings prevent progress in important work. Seventy-one percent of these managers said meetings they attend are unproductive.

Poor meeting facilitation compromises productivity on important projects. A recent study found that workers spend on average two hours in pointless meetings per week. Add the total number of hours and the impact is staggering. A poorly run meeting costs US companies $399 billion not to mention the staggering loss of time at 24 billion hours.

Weak facilitators fail to manage meetings and prevent people from going off topic. They cannot control people who come to meetings late or derail meeting objectives. The list of egregious facilitation mistakes is too long for this post. The worst mistake is a meeting that has no clear leader guiding people to a shared outcome.

Bottom line: An absent captain, aka a bad meeting facilitator, undermines team morale and his or her own credibility.

Related Article: Productivity Potholes: Bad Behavior Is Crushing Collaboration's Potential 

Leading Frictionless Meetings

Fortunately, the two categories of culprits have solutions. Here are two high-leverage solutions to transform your meetings.

Simplify How You Meet or Don’t Meet

It’s no longer necessary to limit discussions or review a project deliverable, for example, in a meeting at a predetermined time. Emerging collaboration platforms are helping people give input before, during or after the meeting. Leaders need to allow people to add value by removing the constraints of a timebound meeting.

While eliminating meetings is unrealistic and unnecessary, giving people time back in their days is realistic and necessary. Scheduling a meeting has become the de facto business practice. It’s assumed a meeting is the best way to get things done.

Removing the constraints of a scheduled meeting gives employees a highly coveted outcome: flexibility. By challenging the assumptions that meetings are timebound and require attendance, gives employees flexibility. They have the flexibility to contribute in a way that maximizes their talents and the way they work.

Related Article: Want to Improve Your Next Meeting? Remove the Table

Invest in Growing Your Soft Skills

Bringing people together is still a useful way to work. With that in mind, when a meeting is necessary a skilled, effective facilitator is mandatory.

At a high level, a masterful facilitator is a leader. As such, leadership skills are essential for facilitators to be successful. Leaders as facilitators are adept at achieving meeting outcomes by leveraging these skills:

  • Promotes understanding amongst all participants.
  • Navigates conflicting ideas.
  • Manages difficult people.
  • Understands how to pull in introverts respectfully.
  • Knows how to harness extroverts’ tendencies to dominate meetings.
  • Keeps meetings on time and short.
  • Limits attendance to the right people at the right time.
  • Develops an agenda with a clear purpose.

A frictionless meeting is possible today. Central to productive meetings are leaders as facilitators. This, paired with the effective use of technology, replaces confusion with progress. Frustration with clarity. Boredom with commitment.