Should You Call a Meeting? 4 Clues That Point to Yes

You’ve been sitting in a meeting for the last 58 minutes. As you close in on the one-hour mark, someone suggests putting a pin in the conversation. You’re not wrapping up the topic. No, you’re just postponing the dialogue for a second meeting scheduled later in the week. Your team pulls up their calendars to find a time most of you will be available to meet. It’s not an easy feat. Seems like between deadlines, project updates, and other meetings, you all have packed schedules. Sound familiar? 

If you’re like most of us, the above scenario seems completely plausible. You’re thinking about your meeting-heavy calendar and nodding, aren’t you? We were already moving to a more meeting-dense work environment pre-pandemic. As we enter the endemic stage of COVID, things haven’t changed much regarding our business meetings. If the volume of them on your calendar hasn’t increased, odds are the total hasn’t declined either, especially as we try to manage hybrid schedules and teams.

By The Numbers

In a recent survey by Dialpad, over 80% of those surveyed said they spent between 4-12 hours in meetings every week. The same survey indicated 11% of those surveyed said they spend 12-20 hours a week in meetings and 4.73% are in some meeting or another for more than 20 hours each week.

It’s not just the volume of meetings that’s draining our time. According to other studies and surveys, we can sink an average of a half-hour just trying to figure out when and where we’ll meet, and another prepping for that meeting. Then factor in the time we spend sitting in front of our screens or in a conference room waiting for everyone to assemble so we can get started. 

The Good and Bad

Let’s be clear: not every meeting is a colossal waste of time. Yes, we waste an average of 31 hours a month on unproductive meetings, but that doesn’t mean every face-to-face (virtual or in-person) on your calendar is a productivity killer. In fact, team meetings should be part of your regular management tool kit. The point isn’t to eliminate meetings. It’s to use the tool wisely. 

Know Your Why

We ask a lot of questions when we set goals and objectives. Perhaps one of the most important questions (and one we often don’t ask enough!) is “Why?” Why are we doing what we’re doing? Does this move us toward our stated values and objectives? Keep in mind that your “why” may not align with specific project goals, but could still be a worthwhile target. Maybe your weekly staff meeting doesn’t impact specific project work, but it can help develop and grow your team. 

Collaborate or Inform?

When attendees leave this meeting, what will be different? Will they know something they didn’t before? Will you have shared information and updates? Will a problem have been solved? Will you have worked together to solve a problem or brainstorm up a new idea? If your purpose for meeting is collaborative, it’s worth meeting. If your goal is simply to disseminate information, consider using email or another communications tool.

But Consider The Topic

On the other hand, sometimes meeting to share information is a worthy meeting. If you’re sharing sensitive information or information that might evoke strong emotions, you may want to set aside some time in the conference room or on Zoom. Concepts that are complex or potentially charged topics can be difficult to handle well in email. Tone and intent are hard to read in print (digital or otherwise). You may not need a full team meeting – maybe a phone call or one-on-one meeting will suffice – but you should nix written communication in these instances.

Speaking of Complex…

Let’s be honest: you’ve read your emails while sitting on the sofa watching TV or while standing on the sidelines at your kid’s soccer tournament. No, not all the time. Sometimes you’re at your desk moving through the unread messages filling your box and wondering if you’ll ever clear the little alert telling you you’ve got new missives to read. We tend to read through our emails quickly. It can be more like scanning words to quickly piece together the general idea of something. It can be easy to miss some details when emails are particularly wordy or the topic is especially complex. This is where meetings come into play. If it’s going to require a long email or the concept is layered and nuanced, call a meeting.