When we think of gatherings at work, we tend to focus on the fun stuff: the team events, office offsites, and holidays parties. We forget about the more pedestrian gatherings that for many people make up the workday: meetings.
Insights from Dialpad, a San Francisco-based tech company focusing on call technology, indicate that in 2021 most people spent up to a third of their time on the clock in a meeting.
But is it time well spent?
The research says (maybe) no. In their 2019 State of Meetings Report, Doodle uncovered some troubling insights. Do any of these resonate with you?
- Professionals in the UK, Germany, and the United States reported spending up to two hours per week in ‘pointless meetings’ - that’s 13 days a year.
- Cumulatively, 24bn hours will be lost to pointless meetings in the next year.
- More than a third (37%) of professionals consider unnecessary meetings to be the biggest cost to their organization.
- Reflecting on how pointless meetings derail work, 26% said poorly planned meetings impacted their client relationships, 43% said they created confusion, and 44% said they got in the way of work getting done.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
Here are 5 ways you can leverage behavioral psychology to make the next meetings you organize more effective and efficient.
In their book ‘Nudge: Improving decisions about health, wealth, and happiness,’ Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein define a nudge as ‘any aspect of the choice architecture that alters people’s behavior in a predictable way without forbidding any options or significantly changing their economic incentives.’
In other words: a nudge pushes people to choose a specific option - every time - while still giving them the feeling of having choices.
Everyday, we’re nudged by our environments in many ways - sometimes to our benefit, sometimes to our detriment.
For example, an ‘opt-out’ can make you more likely to be an organ donor and signing up for a future automatic increase can help you save more for retirement.
Likewise, price bundling at your local cafe might nudge you towards a daily croissant habit and clever website UI might push you to buy more than you should.
The good news is that anyone can leverage nudges. By working a few into your next meeting, you can nudge people to show up better prepared, make sure you stay on track, and trigger action after the meeting ends.
Nudges need touchpoints. Luckily meetings have two that work for most nudging:
- The meeting invite
- The slides you show at the meeting
Not only is leveraging them easy, you only have to set them up once (and can then easily share them with your team to get everyone on board!).
To nudge preparation
Use the meeting invite to set an agenda.
As Benjamin Franklin famously said, “By failing to plan, you’re preparing to fail.” The same goes for productive meetings: without a plan of what you want to accomplish, you’re unlikely to leave with what you want.
Unsurprisingly, Booqued found that most working people tend to agree:
- 72% of professionals believe that setting clear objectives is what makes a meeting successful.
- 67% believe that it's having a clear agenda.
But just because we know something is good for us doesn’t mean we’ll do it: 63% of meetings don’t have a set agenda and 37% of meetings don’t have a plan at all.
Nudge preparation for your next meeting by sending out an agenda a couple of days before the meeting. Include your objectives for each agenda point so that participants know how to prepare.
Do you think participants need to know something specific about the topic to contribute?
Attach materials to invite and label them ‘Pre-Reads’ so that everyone shows up on the same page.
To nudge efficiency
Include time allotments in the agenda and repeat them on the slides.
The next worst thing to a meeting with no agenda?
A meeting with an agenda that isn’t followed.
Keep things moving along by adding time allotments to each agenda item. This also helps you see if your agenda is realistic before the meeting starts. From there, either use a stopwatch yourself or ask another participant to keep track of time.
To nudge action
Include a ‘next steps’ slide at the end of each section.
This reminds you to pause before moving on, recap the discussion points, and reflect on what should happen next. The bonus here is that you can use this content for your recap at the end of the meeting, saving you time and helping your team stay aligned.