We all spend a huge portion of our working lives in meetings. In the United States alone, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that we collectively hold somewhere between 125 million and 640 million hours of meetings every month.
And that’s just the time spent in the conference room — a comprehensive analysis of the calendars of key employees at one company, performed by Bain & Company and published in the Harvard Business Review, found that the preparation, execution, and follow up for a single weekly executive meeting consumed a staggering 300,000 hours each year.
Wasted time? Well, some of it, almost certainly.
But all of it? Not even close.
Meetings remain one of the most effective ways for employees to collaborate and share ideas in detail, and ultimately help deliver the best possible results for the business.
That said, meetings have somewhat fairly earned a reputation as a productivity killer — forcing attendees to stop whatever they’re working on entirely then leave their desks to walk down to the meeting location. Cognitive science tells us it can take up to a half-hour for people to get refocused and back up to working full speed after an interruption like a meeting. It’s not hard to see then how even a couple of meetings in a day might seriously derail someone’s progress on a task.
But because there is still enormous value in meeting with colleagues and partners to discuss initiatives in detail, sync on progress, troubleshoot roadblocks, and more, meetings persist.
Only now, leaders in almost every organization have begun to look for new solutions to old problems that help them re-engineer their corporate “meeting culture.”
Demanding Better Meetings As Part Of Organizational Culture
The goal for most of these initiatives is to minimize the amount of time people spend in meetings, and ensure that the meetings that are held are run effectively.
Amazon, for one, has implemented its own take on the flipped meeting, and requires an employee scheduling a meeting to share in advance a four-to-six-page memo covering all relevant information attendees will need. Doing so (hopefully) reduces the time attendees spend passively watching the meeting organizer present those details in person, and thus ideally helps the team more quickly have the discussions and make the decisions that were needed.
And while Amazon’s format may not be right for every business, there are themes in Amazon’s unique meeting culture that commonly appear in the new conventional wisdom for enabling easier collaboration and maximizing productivity with less time wasted in meetings.
It always starts with the best of intentions, but there is no shortage of bad advice out there for how to hold more effective meetings.
From arbitrary restrictions on the length of meetings and number of attendees to making everyone stand for the duration of the meeting or even requiring that everyone take notes — these “best practices” have mostly been born out frustrations with bad in-meeting behaviors.
Fortunately, there are a few ideas out there that really can help make for a better meeting — better ways to engage employees, keep them focused, and ultimately improve collaboration during meetings, without wasting any additional time.
And in the last year or two, one of those ideas has begun quickly growing in popularity, largely because it’s both a simple task to add to any meeting, yet still surprisingly effective at making meetings more interactive and easier to attend.
That secret? Recording every single meeting in your office.
By recording meetings and archiving them in a central, searchable library, you create a perfect record of the exact conversations that took place — which can be referenced later by those were there, those who couldn’t attend, and even others in your organization who may be searching for information that was discussed in meetings they weren’t a part of.
If you record every meeting by default, you give your people more flexibility and control over their daily schedules by ensuring that all the right people can contribute to a meeting even if they can’t be there in person. You also free up attendees to actively participate in the discussion since the video recording eliminates the need for anyone to take copious notes.
Recording meetings also gives your people a valuable source of detailed information they can reference on-demand, and does so without any extra effort. You just click “record” and hold the meeting just as you always would, but now there’s no more need to type up long summary emails or “next steps” memos.
Recording and archiving meetings is a simple way to enable collaboration, both during the meeting and after the meeting ends. But a recorded meeting is only as useful as the meeting itself — so how can an organization foster a culture that encourages useful, productive meetings?
7 Principles For Creating A More Effective Meeting Culture
There are 7 principles of meeting culture that support more effective communication and more productive collaboration. Let’s take a look into each:
1. Schedule The Right Amount Of Time
To limit the amount of time people spend in meetings, some organizations have taken to restricting meetings to a set maximum length in order to reduce the time people spend in meetings. But this heavy-handed tactic often just makes meetings even less efficient — when 15 or 30 minutes simply isn’t enough time to cover everything, meeting attendees are left to just schedule even more meetings.
Instead, encourage your people to think about what they want to accomplish in their meetings, and to schedule a reasonable amount of time for the meeting depending on those goals — whether that’s 10 minutes or 2 hours. As long as the meeting is truly useful, people will far prefer to work through the discussion in full than to split the conversation up over multiple sessions just because of some arbitrary time limit. And no matter how long the meeting runs, as long as you’re recording, if someone has a conflict that requires them to arrive late or leave early they can still catch what they missed in the video and continue working with the rest of the team.
2. Invite The Right People
Amazon has a “Two Pizza Rule” — basically, they contend, two pizzas should be enough to feed everyone that’s invited to a meeting. If your attendee list is too large to feed with two pizzas, that means you’ve invited too many people and should cut your guest list for next time.
Of course, no one wants to attend a meeting that isn’t relevant to them. And objectively, smaller groups do often have an easier time getting to a consensus. But if your people are stuck trying to figure out who isn’t quite valuable enough to invite just so they can stick to an arbitrary attendee cap, your organization runs the risk of missing out on valuable ideas and insights during meetings.
Implementing an “Invite The Right People” policy still forces your employees to think carefully about who should be attending their meetings. And when it’s guaranteed there will be a recording of the meeting, anyone who might have previously been invited “just as an FYI” can more easily juggle competing priorities.
3. Set A Meeting Agenda
A good agenda should do more than organize the thoughts of the person who organized the meeting. It should help every single attendee understand what the meeting will cover, and ultimately, it should help them decide — even before the meeting starts — whether the meeting will be worth the time needed to attend.
At companies that don’t record their meetings, agendas are easy to overlook. After all, in a culture where meetings happen only in real-time and missing the meeting means missing everything presented there, there’s a strong incentive to attend every meeting “just in case.”
By recording all of your meetings you are giving employees more flexibility to choose which meetings to attend and which they can watch on-demand. While the prospect of empty conference rooms may frighten some meeting organizers at first, if you set the expectation that in advance of each meeting, organizers must share an agenda that includes the goals, structure, and basic discussion points for that meeting, you can achieve two helpful outcomes:
- You incentivize meeting organizers to schedule only truly valuable meetings, lest no one decide to attend, and
- You make it possible for everyone else to see where they can add the most value before they commit to the schedule, thereby helping them maximize their own productivity.
4. Send Materials In Advance
Want to know where most time is wasted in today’s meetings? It’s not at the end — that’s where discussions are held and decisions are made. Rather, most of the ineffective time spent in meetings happens first, when someone (usually the organizer) spends sometimes up to 75 percent of the scheduled meeting time “bringing everyone up to speed.”
While it’s obviously important that everyone start on the same page before making decisions, there’s no reason we should spend the first 45 minutes of every hour-long meeting passively watching someone push their way through a slide deck. In fact, one of the best ways to reduce the time that your people spend in meetings is to take the presentations out of the meeting entirely — that way all of the time can be spent actively collaborating and working through problems.
Encourage employees to send relevant documents ahead of the meeting, or better yet, have them share a quick video presentation of what they’d have otherwise spent running down at the start of the meeting. Then set the expectation that attendees must review that information before the meeting begins. By sharing and reviewing the presentation part of the meeting beforehand, you enable attendees to review the content at their own pace (so those familiar with the subject can skim quickly, while others can spend more time), and meeting time can be reduced to just the amount of time needed for all to make the final decision.
Related Reading: A Better Meeting Beings Before You Reach The Conference Room Door
5. Minimize Distractions
Meetings are less productive when people aren’t engaged. That means that distractions like checking email, taking notes, or multitasking, in general, can make meetings less effective. Studies have even shown that just one distracted person can have a waterfall effect on others around them, usurping the attention of others nearby.
While banning laptops and other devices during meetings may seem too extreme for your organization, minimizing the need for them can help remove distractions and increase participation. That’s part of the value of recording meetings — if no one needs to keep their laptop open in order to take detailed notes, no one has to fight off all the other distractions that laptop might contain. In a world where attention spans can be measured in seconds, this is a small step that has the potential to result in big changes.
6. Assign Action Items
At the end of the meeting, it’s a best practice for the meeting host to assign action items and plans for any off-topic discussions that were relegated to the “parking lot.” But typing all that up to share with the team after each meeting can quickly become a job in itself, eating up minutes or even hours of the organizer’s time after each meeting.
Here too, recording meetings can help you win back time by eliminating rote work. If you’re recording your meetings, you’re automatically creating a quick reference that includes all the next steps without requiring anyone to spend even a minute to type it all up.
7. Leverage Meeting Recordings For Future Collaboration
Today, we’re accustomed to continuing collaboration outside of the meeting room (or beyond the conference call) through email, shared documents, and productivity hubs like Slack. But none of these communication solutions, though, make it easy to revisit specific discussions that happened during a meeting — or worse, they require the creation of an entirely new document or messaging thread.
When you capture meeting recordings with a video platform like Panopto, that video can become the main point of future collaboration through threaded timestamped discussions that live right inside the video. And if someone joins a project down the road, they can easily get caught up to speed by watching the video and parsing through the related conversations.
Don’t Wait To Start Recording Your Company Meetings
Panopto is an all-in-one video platform that enables organizations to automatically capture and archive all of their company meetings in a secure, searchable internal video library. It even integrates with today’s leading video conferencing systems, making it easy to start recording your meetings — without having to change the way you meet.
Recognized by Forester for having the “Best Support for Video Search,” Panopto enables you to search the words spoken and shown within every video in your library and then jump to the exact moment a topic is discussed. That means not only will your videos be a useful record, but they can even become a valuable, referenceable part of your company’s knowledge base.
To see how Panopto can help revamp your corporate meeting culture to make your teams more productive, contact our team today for a free trial.