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Why are meetings being overrated
The conference room is the natural habitat of homo officeus. Especially individuals in higher positions often spend their whole day in meetings, as if this behavior was the very top of effectiveness.
According to a German study, six of ten managers think meetings slow the work on a project. Seventy percent even admit to regularly join meetings without having themselves prepared and every other says that he or she lacks clear responsibilities or leadership within the assembled group. A third of German businesspeople confers for three or four hours a day. For an average professional life this means almost twenty years of meetings!
So what's the problem with meetings then? Obviously there's too many of them. Many problems can be solved by walking over to the colleague's desk or by having a small talk with team members on the lunch. It's less time consuming than making eight people gather in a room to only discuss a minor problem.
Also it's important to make sure only relevant people take part on the meeting. Of those eight people only five are involved in that subtask our example meeting is dedicated to. So let's leave those other three alone, to work on what they really need to. And don't arrange a meeting, when a key person is missing. If it's not really urgent, it can sure wait a day or two. Otherwise the meeting won't be very productive, but again a waste of time for most participants.
Often meetings are also an emotional and psychological challenge. You have to endure endless monologues and egos going wild. Everybody fights for your bosses attention and those who were your allies while chatting at the coffee machine suddenly become opponents. After every meeting you regret either having said to much or not enough. Who laughed at your jokes and who didn't?
Meetings and conferences thus most often mean a distraction from work, if not stress for their participants. On the other hand they are a valuable feedback for the members of a team, as their their ideas and work approach are being exposed to a broader collective. Also it's an opportunity to practice presentation skills. But even if conferences are important from a social perspective, this still doesn't make them an effective collaboration tool. Sometimes they are really necessary, but many of the meetings everyone attended in his or her work life were not.
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