‘Sorry I need to drop off for my next meeting.’
‘Unfortunately, my next meeting has started already so I need to go.’
These and other phrases commonly appear in meeting software chat boxes at the start of a new hour. Most of us will likely have written them over the past feew years. According to Microsoft, the amount of time we spend in meetings has grown by over 250% since February 2020. And that is just on MS teams – just think what it is when you add other virtual meeting software. That’s a crazy amount of time. And for humanitarian organisations the Ukraine crisis will have made this even worse.
And most of dislike, no hate, meetings. So why is it that we spend so much time doing things we hate? And why, if ‘practice makes perfect’, have we not gotten better at running meetings. Perhaps we don’t want to? Perhaps we believe meetings are a necessary evil and can’t improve? Or perhaps we are too scared to try something new, something different.
Doing something different can be difficult, but we all can try. Sometimes we have meetings which are simply updates which could be done at different times (share a video, slidedeck, or simply email). Ask how can we make this fun? How can we add music? Do we even need to meet? Does everyone need to be together at the same time? Change the style of ‘meetings’ – have drop in hours, interviews, and so on.
And when we do meet, we need space between meetings. When we were in offices, we had the physical space between meeting room to walk, grab a coffee, or use the loo. Virtual doesn’t allow this naturally. If you organise a meeting you are also responsible for ending with space before the next meeting for people to have a break. The same Microsoft report reminds us 10 minutes betweeen meetings makes us more productive. It’s hard to be productive when you need the loo.
Choose one meeting today and try something different. Start small and keep at it.