Having large meetings might just be killing productivity

by Josh Biggs in Tips on 8th September 2019

Have you ever sat in a meeting, looked around and thought to yourself, “I have absolutely no reason to be here.”? Yeah, you’re not alone. There’s a massive problem in the modern workplace where people think that “being inclusive” means inviting a bunch of people to a meeting where they don’t actually need to be because they don’t want them to feel left out of the decision-making process or the idea-generating brainstorm.

Unwanted meeting invites often come from well-meaning individuals who want the whole company to feel like one big happy family. But that’s what year-end functions are for.

When you invite people to a meeting, your intention may be to make them feel part of the bigger picture. But, in reality, you’re pulling people away from their daily workload, which they will undoubtedly have to catch up with after sitting in a meeting for an hour and saying absolutely nothing. And, here’s the thing, having more people in a meeting may actually kill the productivity of the meeting. So, whether you’re booking the boardroom in your own office for a strategy session or renting a conference venue for a project kick-off meeting, think carefully about the following before you decide on who to invite.

 

A large meeting is bound to be a loud meeting

Believe it or not, there are people who do enjoy being in meetings and they also rather like speaking in meetings. Every session has at least one person who feels the need to talk more than anyone else. Sometimes it’s because they feel insecure and want to prove their worth in front of directors or clients. Other times, it’s because they are in a position of power and want to make sure that everyone knows that they not only understand what is going on, but also that they have valuable insights to add. Unfortunately, those “insights” can simply be them telling the room why they believe the idea that was just pitched was a great one by repeating everything the person who initially pitched the idea said.

The more people you have in a meeting, the more “speakers” you may have in attendance. Now, not only will they be adding their two cents to every point brought up, they will also be competing with other talkers who also want to be heard. This detracts from the purpose of the meeting as nothing new is being brought up and inevitably causes the meeting to go on for longer than the two hours that you set aside for the event.

 

The more people there are, the more people you need to convince

Many meetings, like project kickoff meetings, creative sessions and financial strategy meetings, require a general consensus in the room. Attendees need to agree on what the logical next step is in launching a new product, support the ideas put forward for a new client pitch, or sign off on a financial strategy to increase profit in the next quarter. If you have three people in a room, it should be easy to get everyone on the same page. If you have 13 people in a room, you will have a far more difficult time.

Sure, if all 13 people are key decision-makers and they all have to agree on anything before it can be done, you have no other choice. However, that’s often not the case. Instead, you’ll often find that you have people objecting to an action plan that doesn’t, in all honesty, affect them. This is because they may not be the best person to understand why that action plan was chosen. For example, you could have the head of HR commenting on a problem that’s directly related to the marketing department. The marketing team lead shouldn’t have to defend their expertise to someone who isn’t an expert on the topic matter. Which brings us nicely to the next problem with large meetings.

 

Too many cooks in one room can be a drain on productivity

You’ve taken a number of experts away from their workload for this meeting. This means, if they are employed by you, you’re stopping them from actively making your business money during the period that they’re in the meeting. If they play an active part in the meeting and add value that no one else could add, then it’s worth it. The problem is that often more than one member of a department or team will be asked to attend a meeting. They are both essentially experts on the same subject matter and it’s unlikely that you’ll gain insight from one that you wouldn’t have been able to gain from the other. This means that one of the two would be more of an asset to productivity if they weren’t in the room.

Before you plan your next meeting, consider who will add actual value to that meeting rather than who you want to feel included. This will ensure that only the voices that need to be heard are in the room, that you don’t have to convince the wrong people and that you’re not wasting the time of experts who don’t need to be in the room.

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