We cover a lot of meeting productivity tips in our downloadable guide on How to Own Your Meetings, but I think this one deserves some extra attention. The recurring meeting can be a wild card for productivity. Just what am I signing myself up for when I hit accept to your request for an hour of my week, every week, for the rest of my life?
Email clients make it really easy to transform a well-prepared, meticulously selected, well-thought-out meeting into something that, week after week, dilutes into an unfounded gathering of company resources that are probably better spent doing something else. Maybe your recurring meeting is one of the exceptions, but if you’ve ever been a part of the 25–50% of meetings considered a waste of time, then it may be worth considering some alternatives.
Just to be clear, I don’t hate all meetings, just bad ones
Like most anything, meetings are fine in moderation. As in, someone is moderating them — sending out agendas ahead of time, making sure only the people who are contributing to the objectives are invited and keeping the conversations on track and on time. I think recurring meetings open us up to violating some of these best practices that have been established for productive meetings.
Where they work best
The best recurring meeting that I’ve been a part of was project-based and run by a trained project manager. The project kicked off on day one and needed to be finished on day thirty, and 15-minute meetings were scheduled along the way for key stakeholders to quickly agree on and take ownership of next steps to keep the project on track.
By being 15 minutes long, there wasn’t enough time to do anything but meet the objectives. The group was small, and there was an end to the recurrence — once the project was done, so were the meetings. Essentially, the project manager had taken an hour-long meeting and split it up along the course of the project to keep everyone focused and accountable.
Where the recurring meeting can go wrong
Saving it for the meeting. If you’ve ever had a regularly occurring meeting, you might have been tempted to save a bit of information for your next get-together — that way you’ll have something to talk about when it’s your turn “around the table.” Not only does that have the potential to stall a project, it wastes the time you do have reserved by focusing on old news.
Meetings can be expensive, and setting a recurring meeting, especially for a large group, can come at a high price. It’s important to remember that meetings come at the opportunity cost of other work. Blocking out an hour for 10 people to meet is a day’s worth of wages — so have respect for the meeting.
The trend toward persistent collaboration
One way to cut down on the recurring meeting is to employ a persistent collaboration tool. Most recurring meetings focus on project and status updates, and those can be transcribed pretty easily into a group chat. That keeps the conversation going and lets people pop in and out to stay caught up on their own time.
In a recent survey of Lifesize users, we found that while scheduled meetings are still widely used, more conversations are happening organically, without a calendar invitation and for shorter periods of time. Lifesize is built to let teams communicate in all of the ways they need to — video, audio and web conferencing, chat, and recorded and shared meetings — and it makes it incredibly simple to click on a name in the directory and start a conversation from any device.