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Check out any recent research about the merits of meetings for business professionals today, and chances are you’ll discover workers’ frustrations with them only continue to grow. More often than not, these surveys and studies position meetings as the archenemy of productivity for the modern workforce — a major deterrent to employees’ progress with both their core, day-to-day responsibilities and even critical, long-term business objectives.
In fact, meetings are commonly cited as the activity employees of all levels and roles love to hate the most:
Whatever your particular views on meetings — and despite the slew of anti-meeting content and sentiment among employees the world over — the truth is the most successful companies today don’t necessarily meet less. Rather, they meet better.
If you fall under the “We need to drastically decrease our meeting total” camp, here’s why you — and others across your organization — should rethink your stance in 2020 and learn how to meet better.
Much has been made about how millennials communicate compared with previous generations. The transition from in-person interactions to video, to voice, to text, to just a 👍 or ❤️ paints a vivid and revealing picture of where communication is heading — particularly in the workplace.
I started my career meeting predominantly in person, with the occasional video conference mixed in. (It was at that time via expensive hardware installed in a single meeting room within the office.)
Now, most professional communication occurs via workplace chat. Email has been mostly set aside for external relationships — that is, mostly for client and partner-facing messaging.
When I want to really get the message across to a particular individual or team, I switch to video: I can begin a Zoom call with a single slash command in Slack anywhere, anytime.
And in-person, face-to-face discussions? While they’re still most definitely beneficial, they’re now primarily reserved for those co-located or where business travel budgets permit.
We call this spectrum the “bandwidth of communication”:
So, why should you care about this bandwidth? And, more specifically, why should you make face-to-face and live video meetings your principal means of business communication with internal and external stakeholders when simple chat and emails might suffice?
One simple reason: Differentiation.
There’s a good reason why customer-facing teams are quick to fly across the country to meet with prospects and clients or conduct video-based calls with their highest-value customers:
People, including and especially your customer base, both appreciate and desire regular interactions with other people — even brand representatives.
Meeting one-on-one with colleagues, partners, leads, and clientele live — whether in the actual flesh or via real-time video conference feeds — has always been the best way to develop, maintain, and enhance crucial business relationships.
In the age of (gradually improving) artificial intelligence — in other words, the era of chatbots, automated emails, and “self-serve” technology — making time to meet individuals with whom you have a professional relationship has become the ultimate competitive differentiator.
Whether you’re a B2C customer service agent aiming to provide top-tier support to existing subscribers or a B2B sales rep demoing your company’s software to potential clients, face-to-face communication is your best bet for building and sustaining personal relationships with buyers and prospects alike and, in turn, achieving your principal business goals.
Given how convincing face-to-face business communications is for brands of all types today compared with approaches like AI-powered chatbots and semi-personalized emails, it’s easy to see why so many professionals continue to turn to in-person and video meetings to nurture interested leads, maintain contact with customers, and re-engage cold clients.
Live, face-to-face conversations aren’t just a differentiator with customers and competitors, though. They’re also helpful in streamlining internal communications across your organization. More than half of employee respondents in a recent Nextiva survey (53%) cited face-to-face communications as the most effective method for colleague interactions, outranking email.
Some workers are trying to talk less to lean on low-bandwidth communication for their teams. But what many of these workers don’t understand is that by scheduling the right meetings at the right cadence and with clearly outlined expectations and objectives for each meeting — one-offs and recurring discussions alike — they can more easily remain in sync with and on the same page as their colleagues and ensure they get the most value from said meetings.
One of the most significant changes in our generation is the dramatic reduction in meeting costs.
Just a handful of years ago, a meeting with a new prospect or customer involved hopping on a cross-country or international flight, thus requiring substantial amounts of your money and time. In short, we set most of our meeting budgets with this type of travel and related logistics in mind.
But with the advent of reliable, next-gen video conferencing solutions like Zoom and intuitive, collaborative meeting note platforms like Hugo, the average meeting cost has fallen appreciably.
Today, the man-hours and expenses necessary to close a deal with a valuable lead or onboard a customer have greatly diminished, saving you (and your C-suite) precious dollars and days.
What’s more, the time savings for professionals who take advantage of video conferencing tools are robust as well. Zoom discovered 70% of its users saved at least four minutes per meeting, while an additional 25% saved roughly 10 minutes per meeting. Factor in the myriad meetings employees have with remote colleagues weekly and monthly, and those minutes add up.
While saving substantial amounts of time and money is obviously a big plus for companies, that doesn’t necessarily mean there ought to be a cutback in the number of meetings held. In fact, that savings should allow for a greater volume of more efficient and fruitful meanings.
Imagine if you could limit your internal meetings to just four hours a week. That’s what we’ve done at Hugo, and the results continue to show the adjustment was well worth it.
As Hugo Co-founder and CEO Josh Lowy so aptly put it, “This is how we move fast.” Obviously, capping 10% of our work time on internal meetings is a decision we felt as a business was best for us. That may not be the case for every company out there today.
But by greatly diminishing the amount of time all employees at your business allocate toward meetings each week, you can concertedly open up new growth opportunities, like the ability to take on new projects and/or prioritize existing ones you simply didn’t have time for before.
I understand there will definitely be meetings that you simply can’t eliminate or truncate. These high-impact appointments can and should remain as is, particularly if they have a sizable influence and effect on large-scale business endeavors.
But all other meetings must be put on the table for discussion regarding time reductions.
At the end of the day, your meeting culture is one of the essential facets of your overall company culture and, therefore, something you should think about as a distinct strategy.
There are certainly other elements of your company culture worth examining on top of meetings.
As outlined in our new book on team culture, improving high-level decision-making, better utilizing customer insights, conducting project retrospectives, and enhancing the physical office environment are other components that require careful attention.
But starting with modifying your meeting culture to meet smarter is an optimal place to start.
Darren Chait is a co-founder of connected meeting notes company and Zoom App Marketplace partner Hugo. He started his career as a corporate lawyer in Australia before moving to San Francisco to build Hugo with his co-founder, Josh Lowy, after understanding the dramatic cost and opportunity wrapped up in the way businesses meet. Darren recently co-authored the book 10X Culture, a handbook to building a thriving organization, which Zoom Founder and CEO Eric S. Yuan cited as the “the best shortcut you can take in your team’s journey to a winning culture. It can be read in an afternoon, but you’ll be re-reading it for the rest of your life.”