As a reader of EffectiveMeetings.com, you’re obviously concerned about inefficient meetings that waste both your time and your company’s money. If they’re conducted properly, meetings can and will make you (and your organization) function more efficiently. So the next time you’re asked about why you bother holding meetings, think of all the time and money-wasting activities that could be minimized or eliminated with a meeting.

Phone Tag
Voice mail has made this a familiar game for most of us. We all know how frustrating it is to call someone, leave a message, move away from your desk momentarily, and return to find a message from that person. Phone tag can last for several rounds, leaving both players immensely frustrated. If you’re trying to reach someone, it can save time and headaches to simply schedule a quick in-person or audio meeting at a time appropriate for both of you.

E-mail Antics
Love it or hate it, we’ve all come to rely on e-mail for the majority of our communications. How many times have you found yourself e-mailing a question out of sheer habit to someone working 10 feet away? Obviously, e-mail is invaluable when you’re communicating over long distances, or if you need to send information to more than one person, or if you need a request in writing. But there are plenty of other situations in which we use e-mail when a face-to-face meeting would be much more effective.

Have you ever spent 15 minutes writing an e-mail on a topic that would have taken you two minutes to discuss in person? Or sent an e-mail on an urgent issue and stared impatiently at your monitor waiting for a response? In these instances, wouldn’t it be quicker and easier to schedule a meeting to discuss the issue? That way you can clarify any murky points, receive instant feedback, and engage all relevant parties at once.

Generally, e-mails will summarize issues rather than discuss them in depth. In many instances, a summary is all that’s required, but if you need to discuss an issue in depth, a meeting is usually the best alternative.

Because e-mails are written, it can be hard to pick up on the intended tone. Without vocal intonations and physical gestures, the underlying meaning of a message can be lost or misinterpreted. And while many people use e-mail "emoticons" to compensate, they’re not really a substitute for the real thing. If you are discussing a sensitive issue, it’s always better to do so face-to-face.

The Paper Trail
We’ve all heard the myth of the "paperless office," but looking at the mountain of paper that’s engulfing your workspace, how many of us actually believe it? In fact, studies have shown that the volume of paper produced by businesses has increased rather than diminished in recent years.

Have you ever written a memo or report, then printed off 10 copies to give to your colleagues for feedback? You end up with 10 edited copies that you have to try and integrate into one cohesive document. Wouldn’t it save everyone time (and paper) if you called a meeting with your team, collaborated with the live document, and made your changes then and there?

Remember...
It’s important to keep in mind that calling a meeting doesn’t always have to be a major production. Keep it brief, focus on the issue at hand, and concentrate on reaching a workable conclusion. Remember, scheduling a 15-minute meeting can be a lot more effective than three e-mails, two missed phone calls, and a paper report!

1. Steve Wilson


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