If you’ve never suffered the nightmare of an inefficient meeting, you’re one of the lucky few. Too many times, I’ve heard colleagues utter the words “I’ve no idea why I was in that meeting” after pouring an hour of productivity down the drain.
From a business standpoint, this is terrifying.
If staff say they don’t know why they’re doing something, there’s either been a serious breakdown in communication or efficiency, or both. These words should act as an alarm bell that something within business operations needs to change.
But, very often, it doesn’t.
Many businesses carry on with their same poor practices - day in, day out. They either don’t understand how big a problem inefficient meetings are, or they see the problem but don’t know how to fix it. It’s not like you can simply pull the plug on meetings - if you’ve got a lot of them, they’re clearly fulfilling some purpose.
Why you’ve got too many meetings
That “purpose” is often to make up for poor communication channels.
Sadly, meetings are commonly used as a way to keep everyone informed of everything. A lot of the time meetings become large because everyone in the room needs to be on the same page about a project or topic, and there doesn’t seem to be a more efficient way to do this.
The result? People’s calendars get stuffed with increasingly irrelevant meetings in which they have very little to share and few tidbits to take away. They spend 58 minutes of a 60-minute meeting sitting in silence, while their actual work is accumulating at their desk. Time dwindles, productivity stalls, frustration sets in, and stress levels soar.
Why you’ve got too many emails
Well, how about a group email instead of the meeting?
In a nutshell: no. Anyone who’s been caught up in a 25-person email marathon knows that they’re not the answer. It’s a disaster.
Your inbox becomes swamped with irrelevant chatter, important emails are buried within the mess, and you managed to actually miss something within the email train addressed to you because the whole thing seemed irrelevant.
Basically, all you’ve managed to do is move the inefficiency from the boardroom into your inbox and add a host of new problems.
A new hope
Thankfully, there’s a beacon of hope: modern communications platforms.
These magnificent technological tools improve connectivity within teams and across organizations. They’re designed specifically to support the ongoing communication involved in day-to-day work and team projects… and they work.
Ultimately, communications tools serve to streamline co-creation, communication, and task management - removing these activities from the mess of long email trains and overstuffed, irrelevant meetings.
3 wonderful communications tool features
There are a huge number of communications tools on the market - Jostle, Slack, Igloo, Jive, Sharepoint, and many more - and they all offer a different approach to improving internal communications. Finding the right one for you can be tricky, and we strongly suggest focusing on your specific needs before searching for one. (Discover the secret to finding the right communications tools).
In the meantime, if you’re looking for some tried-and-tested examples, here are three of my favourite communications tool features and how they help to increase efficiency and flow of information.
- Task management
I love task management tools, and am personally a big fan of Trello. I actually live in it. I have a personal board, in which I map out my own week’s work (leaving links and notes for myself in each task-based card). And, I’m a part of multiple team boards. This is my favourite use of Trello - it’s where our entire team communicates about projects, track due dates, share project-specific files, and keep tabs on who’s responsible for moving the project along to its next stage.
This means I’m rarely dragged into project-based meetings because Trello makes work so transparent. If I need to find out the status of a project, I simply open the card and find out the current state of affairs (as well as track any communication that has led us to that point). The result is an aligned team, higher productivity, and less admin.
If you’ve used Instant Messenger, you know why chat is helpful for quick 1-1 or small group communication. It’s a great way of checking on something or working through a small issue live from different locations. I’d have to say my favourite work-based chat feature is actually the one in our Jostle intranet (hand on heart)! I genuinely think it’s a more effective communications tool because:
The chats are permanent
Within one tab I can see all of my ongoing chats, and from the moment these chats are created they stay in that tab. This means they become an established and reliable communications channel, where teams can get updates, chat, and ask for feedback. (Bye, bye, unnecessary staff meetings…)
The chats are searchable
Ever forget who you had that conversation with…? In the Jostle platform, you can search the chat for exact sentences/words that you remember discussing with someone. It’ll let you know which chat conversation they’re in. Ultimate time saver.
The chats save links and files
This is one of my favourite little features. If I’ve ever shared a file or link over chat (or someone has shared with me) I can easily find it again by going to a small tab within the chat, which holds a comprehensive list of all of these files and links.
A stream is a free-form, open-participation forum for short updates - just like Twitter. I really like streams within a communications platform because they help me stay connected to everyone in the organization, regardless of team, location, or position.
People use streams to ask/answer questions, recognize other colleagues for great work, share something that’s interesting to them, or provide updates (e.g. “I’ll be on vacation from tomorrow to next Monday. Reachable on cell.” or “Everyone who’s coming to Friday’s social, we’re meeting out front at 5pm sharp!)
A stream helps keep a vibrant community of peers connected. However, if you’re worried about the “noise” of it, some streams offer the ability to filter the stream. This means individuals will be able to reduce the volume of posts and focus on what’s interesting to them.
I’m not going to claim that a communications tool is the medicine for every meeting-related ailment for every company. However, from first-hand experience (and from conversations with customers), an appropriate communications tool can seriously serve to unclog calendars and free up time to accomplish work and stay efficient.