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5 Reasons Why Meetings Fail and How to Fix Them

5 Reasons Why Meetings Fail and How to Fix Them

In the workplace, we can’t avoid meetings. Some say that meetings are a form of workplace torture, where we listen to our superiors, acting as an audience for the boss’s speeches. Those meetings without clear conclusions waste our energy and erode our enthusiasm; those meetings that run over time steal the time we should be resting.

Your AI-powered meeting assistant — Huddles

Smarter agenda , valuable conclusions

01-Why do we hate meetings so much?

Tracy, who has been working for three years, never imagined before entering the workplace that “meetings” could be so frustrating.

Her supervisors and bosses seem to love meetings, organizing them even for matters that could be communicated in two sentences. There are morning meetings to boost motivation, evening meetings for inspirational talks, and project review meetings that witness blame-shifting and finger-pointing. Weekly and monthly meetings seem to serve no purpose other than wasting time.

What frustrates Tracy the most is that many meetings can extend beyond office hours, going on until 9 or 10 in the evening. After experiencing this many times, whenever she hears her boss say, “I’ll wrap up in the next 5 minutes,” she knows it’s going to be the longest 5 minutes in the world, with the meeting dragging on for an hour or two.

Some say that meetings are a form of workplace torture, and you might have had experiences similar to Tracy’s.

In reality, we don’t dislike meetings themselves; it’s the fancy, time-wasting, off-topic, inconclusive, and ineffective meetings that we find tiresome:

  • Visually stunning PowerPoint presentations with animations, but the key points are unclear when presented.
  • Being surrounded by meetings during the day, leaving actual work for the evenings.
  • Lengthy meetings where people get off-topic, others get distracted or fall asleep, and everyone is doing their own thing.
  • Being pulled into meetings with no prior notice, only to find out the topic during the chaotic discussion.
  • After hours of meetings, you’re tasked with summarizing meeting notes, which can be overwhelming, to say the least.

Meetings were originally meant for collaborative discussions, action planning, and progressing work—a vital management tool and decision-making platform within companies.

However, in many companies today, meetings have devolved into a stage for leaders and bosses to self-indulge in speeches, assert authority, and criticize employees. Meetings centered around “leadership” not only frustrate employees but also erode their work enthusiasm, waste participants’ time, and ultimately undermine the future of the organization.

What’s the actual cost of meetings? How much money does a company spend on each meeting? Have you ever calculated this?

A commonly used calculation formula is:

Meeting Cost = 3 times the average hourly wage × 2 times × number of attendees × meeting duration (in hours)

This formula calculates explicit costs, but there are many hidden costs to consider as well, such as opportunity costs, travel expenses incurred due to meetings, the time and energy spent preparing for meetings, and the cost of materials used in meetings, among others.

In a TED Talk titled “Why work doesn’t happen at work,” the speaker shared a statistic from the United States:

Over 3 billion meetings are held each year, with 40%-50% of executives’ work time spent in meetings, and nearly 34% of meetings ending up as a waste of time. If translated into dollars, the annual cost of wasted time due to meetings is nearly $37 billion.

In the workplace, time is a resource, a cost, and money, and the time of the management is even more valuable. If it’s spent on ineffective meetings, the losses can be significant.

Therefore, knowing how to conduct effective meetings is crucial for businesses. As employees, avoiding unproductive meetings and improving our own meeting skills can also benefit our career advancement.

02-Meeting is a skill, not everyone possesses.

Mike, an operations manager at a large internet company, often finds himself pulled into various group voice meetings. One moment he’s opening one document, the next he’s replying to another request. The chat window is filled with a chaotic mess, and brainstorming sessions frequently turn into aimless chitchat with no conclusions, leaving topics to be discussed again next time.

To Mike, it seems incredibly challenging to conduct effective and efficient meetings. Many people may not realize that conducting meetings is an important skill we should strive to improve.

Individuals who excel at conducting meetings can leave a lasting impression in cross-departmental meetings. Meetings also provide a valuable opportunity to network and showcase your abilities. While you might not have the chance to interact with top-level executives in your day-to-day work, presenting excellent action plans, effectively controlling the meeting, and organizing it well can leave a positive impression on leaders.

In summary, those who are skilled at conducting meetings tend to fare well in their careers. Improving the efficiency and quality of meetings can not only make meetings less detested but also set you apart in the workplace.

So, how can you conduct a successful meeting?

When it comes to companies known for their approach to meetings, Amazon’s “Six-Page Memo” method is worth emulating:

  1. Page One: Meeting background (What we do?)
  2. Page Two: Identifying the problem (Why we do it?)
  3. Page Three: How we do it (How we do it?)
  4. Page Four: Validation
  5. Page Five: Discussion/Analysis
  6. Page Six: Summary

Although it’s called a “six-page memo,” it doesn’t mean you have to fill six pages with content. Instead, focus on these six steps to ensure your meeting stays on track, avoids becoming a performance, and leads to conclusions and action plans.

You can also adopt the practice of not using PowerPoint presentations during meetings, just like Amazon. Meetings don’t need to be flashy; the key is to solve problems.

Additionally, simplify the list of attendees, allowing only those necessary to attend. Both Apple and Google follow this principle.

In one meeting, Steve Jobs suddenly stopped and pointed at someone, asking, “Who are you?”

The person explained that she was invited to the meeting because she was involved in some aspects of the marketing project. Steve Jobs politely asked her to leave, saying, “Lori, I don’t think we need you at this meeting. Thank you.”

One of Google’s meeting principles is that there should be no more than 10 participants in a meeting, and each person must contribute ideas; if they have no input, they should not attend.

Whether it’s a project review meeting, a product launch meeting, or a brainstorming session, strict control of meeting time is essential. For example, set a rule that each person can speak for 15 minutes, and not a minute more. Keep the focus on the agenda, prevent deviations, and treat all participants equally, whether they are in management or regular employees.

We now understand how crucial it is to conduct meetings efficiently and have learned some methods for doing so.

If there is a set of tools to encapsulate these meeting methods, meetings will no longer be a form of workplace torture but an opportunity to improve work efficiency and enjoy a sense of accomplishment in the time spent.

03-Conducting a successful meeting is a form of progress

To improve the quality of meetings, internet giants have initiated a meeting revolution. With the help of tools like Huddles, the headache-inducing meeting scenarios that Tracy faced have finally seen improvement. Before the meeting, the agenda is clear and concise, and each person’s speaking time is limited. Finally, everyone can come together to discuss a specific “issue” for decision-making.

Over time, Tracy has gained valuable insights from using this small product.

Before the meeting:

  • Clearly define the meeting’s purpose, agenda, background, and responsible parties.

Huddles has absorbed excellent meeting methodologies from various industries, including Amazon, Huawei, manufacturing, and retail, and distilled them into templates. Different meeting themes utilize different templates, making the process more efficient.

These templates help clarify essential meeting elements such as the meeting’s agenda, background, and responsible parties. Ten minutes before the meeting, everyone can review the set topics and materials individually. Sometimes, they can also leave comments on the materials in advance to facilitate direct discussion during the meeting, avoiding ineffective meetings that leave participants feeling confused.

During the meeting:

  • “All in one” shared collaboration, transforming documents into tasks, knowledge, and a platform for people.

After the meeting:

  • Automatically generate to-do lists, meeting summaries, and assign responsibilities, forming a closed-loop.

By centering the collaborative system around “issues,” the act of conducting a meeting becomes simple, convenient, and efficient, making it less detested by participants.

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