Discover “the surprising science of meetings”

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Steven Rogelberg
Chancellor's Professor, Author

In this Klaxoon webinar, Dr Steven Rogelberg, the world’s leading researcher on meetings, draws from extensive research and insights learned from leading organizations worldwide to share proven practices and techniques for holding effective in-person or remote meetings.

A source of great frustration

Dr Steven Rogelberg is Chancellor and Professor at UNC Charlotte, and he is as surprised as anyone by the success he’s found – not expecting people to want to read or even really hear about the science of meetings. From an outside perspective, his work speaks to people’s appetite to engage with meetings, develop effective meeting skills and try to solve some of the most common problems surrounding them. With remote work now more normal than face-to-face, for some people, meetings have become a source of great frustration and with over 100 million meetings taking place globally each day, that’s an awful lot of potentially miserable participants.

In the US alone, there are 55 million meetings a day, with an estimated $250 billion dollars wasted on meeting each year. The results of studies are very clear that many people are not happy with meetings, so why do they matter so much, and can’t we just ban them altogether?

Dr Rogelberg believes that the elimination of meetings is an absolute false goal. Why? Because meetings act as a mechanism for employee voice and organizational democracy, before even factoring in the collaboration aspect. There is, however, hope – according to Dr Rogelberg, we can not only leverage science to make meetings better, but there is meaningful science that will really help us all to move the dial.

Elevating the essential

So, if stopping meetings altogether is not the answer, what should we be focusing on? It’s quite simple: making sure the time we spend in meetings is time well spent. This means thinking about who is invited, what the meeting is going to focus on and really elevating these essential moments of collaboration. The following tips can help you host stimulating and creative meetings, designed to boost productivity and sustain high levels of engagement. 

Define a clear meeting frame

Dr Rogelberg points out that there are many points where intervention can take place that will make a real impact on the outcome of meetings.
Science can help you make good choices in response to the variety of questions you should be asking before every meeting. He encourages everyone to think very carefully about who absolutely needs to attend each meeting, as well as how long the meeting really needs to be.

In an ideal world, you want leaders to stop and think about meetings before they happen. This might only take a minute – so it’s not a huge investment, but it can make all the difference to the end result. We should, he suggests, expend the same energy on internal meetings with colleagues as we do with our clients and customers – and we can do that by thinking about the key questions which will truly elevate the whole experience. 

Indeed, no one likes going from meetings to meetings, not having seen the light of day. Some of these meetings could have been an email, some are purely informative, and some could have been turned into asynchronous work rather than face-to-face, synchronous work. 

Make participation key

One thing that may surprise people, is that there is no evidence to show that having an agenda increases the effectiveness of a meeting. What matters more is what’s on the agenda – for example are the topics relevant and can the meeting leader adequately handle the topics being discussed?

One way to make an agenda more useful, is to think of it as a series of questions that need to be answered. This not only helps you to understand who should be invited (only people who can answer those questions) but it also helps you know when to end the meeting (when the questions have been answered).

Cherry-on-top, your participants will most likely be very pleased to be invited to shorter meetings, less meetings, and relevant meetings only. This might increase engagement levels on all fronts. 

A person working in remote on desktop, sharing questions with his team about each step that has been identified in an upcoming meeting. | Klaxoon
Asking yourself and your team the right questions even before the meeting starts is a good way to spot the relevant topics to tackle.

With so many meetings taking place, there is an enormous amount of opportunity for inclusion and voices to inform, engage and make decisions, but this does require challenging the traditional approach in which only one or two people speak.
This can be counteracted by leaders being not only thoughtful about who they invite, but careful about setting expectations. It can be helpful to set out clearly what you hope to achieve during a meeting and think about reaching your end goal in a more creative way. Meetings do not all have to look alike and there’s definitely no ‘one size fits all approach’. By taking some time ahead of the meeting to carefully consider the objectives for the meetings, and the best way to get there, one might be able to run some innovative meetings that foster great creativity and allows for higher results. 

Think about the remote part

Since the pandemic began, there has been a huge shift in the way that meetings take place. Remote working came as a huge surprise for the majority of people and a lot of people were simply not ready for the switch. Less informal contact means more meetings are being scheduled overall, but there is evidence to suggest that with practice, in some cases, these meetings are becoming more effective than those in person.
The future of remote meetings is by no means gloomy, Rogelberg is clear that good things can come of them if companies don’t simply assume that people will be good at them and instead provide the tools, training and support to get the absolute most out of them. These tools will also sustain high levels of engagement, that will in turn boost productivity and lower turn over. 

Klaxoon is a great tool to use for remote meetings and workshops, not least because it allows enormous opportunity for participation, collaboration and ongoing engagement. It works for those involved at the time and can be shared easily with colleagues in different locations and time zones. It caters to those who like to speak out and those who are less keen, and it’s a constantly evolving digital record of thought processes and decision making. Indeed, public speaking is not to everyone's tastes. Actually, up to 85% of participants to a meeting are reluctant to express their opinion. 

But true collective intelligence relies on every one being able to weigh in, speak up their mind, and be an active participant in decision-making. 
In that regard, there are a lot of benefits to using a digital whiteboard like Klaxoon Board. It allows for the spoken and the written word to be treated equally, for introverts to share opinions without interrupting anyone. There is also the added bonus of asynchronous work, which allows for more time to think and reflect on a given topic. By switching some meetings to asynchronous work, you give people some space to brainstorm and gain more insights, to later formulate an opinion that has been well considered. 

This can be a great asset for hybrid work, to let everyone join the conversation and be very inclusive to work with everyone's personality. 

Becoming a good steward of other people’s time

Some organizations have fallen foul of the speed with which they needed to switch to fully remote and rather than see it as an opportunity, they’ve simply tried to replicate in person meetings via a video platform. But with the right tools, it is possible to synchronize and align meetings really well. The organizations that are seeing the most success with remote working are those who are leveraging creative technology to make it as engaging for participants as possible and a new approach to collaboration undoubtedly brings with it new opportunities.

A Live session on Board open on a desktop, with a meeting around a Retrospective template. | Klaxoon
A visual example of collaboration with everyone interacting on the same virtual space.

The future world of work is likely to include video, regardless of whether there is a mass return to the office or not, and since a hybrid approach seems more likely, it really does make sense to embrace an approach that will get the best outcomes for your teams. Video is essential because it helps keep people present, but if you’re the meeting leader and you’re insisting that it needs to stay on then it’s down to you to make sure it’s used in a way that is effective and relevant for everyone involved.

Steven Rogelberg: "Virtual meetings have opportunities associated with them that can elevate face-to-face meetings." | Klaxoon

As Rogelberg points out, the whole notion of a new normal can be deceiving – it’s changing all the time. But something we should all get used to, is learning how to be a good steward of other people’s time and understanding the science of meetings is one way to ensure that you do that.

In this Klaxoon webinar, Dr Steven Rogelberg speaks as the world’s leading researcher on meetings, and shares his insight on today's situation and best practices regarding effective meetings, may they be in-person or remote.

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