Survey Studies Effects of Unnecessary Meetings

If you've recently attended a meeting that could best be described as a cure for insomnia, you're not alone. According to a recent survey, executives waste 7.8 hours a week, or 2.3 months a year, in needless formal discussions.

The survey was developed by Accountemps, a temporary staffing service for accounting, finance and bookkeeping professionals, and conducted by an independent research firm. The survey includes responses from 150 executives with the nation's 1,000 largest companies.

Executives were asked, "How many hours per week do you believe the average executive wastes in unnecessary meetings?" The mean response was 7.8 hours, or 2.3 months per year. This compares to 6.0 hours, or 1.8 months, in a 1990 survey.

"The growing use of project teams has generated more interdepartmental communication and encouraged broader attendance at formal gatherings," says Max Messmer, Chairman of Accountemps. "However, with today's demands for heightened employee productivity and efficiency, it has become increasingly important to give careful consideration to all aspects of meeting planning."

Messmer offered the following tips on how to ensure an effective meeting:

Consider the primary objective when selecting participants. Whose job responsibilities will be most impacted by the topic of discussion? Can anyone else provide valuable input? Is attendance critical or would a memo detailing the meeting's conclusions suffice?

Create an agenda. Distribute an outline before the meeting so those invited can prepare to address key issues. An agenda will also help to keep things focused, rather than straying off the subject.

Take notes. They will serve as a reminder of action items and summarize what happened for those who couldn't attend.

Start and conclude on time. This will help set a standard for future meetings. If important issues still need to be discussed by the end of the meeting, offer participants the option of staying or rescheduling at another time.