Are your meetings miserable? Tips from a global meeting guru

    By Adrienne Burke | Small Business

    As video conferencing technologies enable far-flung colleagues to join more business meetings, organizations can avoid spreading global meeting misery by following the advice of Krish Ramakrishnan, CEO of the cloud-based video collaboration service Blue Jeans Network. To benchmark meeting trends and technologies, Blue Jeans, which claims that its services save users 1 billion miles of travel and $600 million in travel-related costs in a year, surveyed more than 1 million Blue Jeans Network users in 177 countries.

    Here are some key modern meeting trends that the Blue Jeans research picked up on, followed by Ramakrishnan's advice for hosting an effective meeting.

    • An average business meeting lasts 45 minutes and has 4.3 participants
    • Women attend 11 percent more meetings than men
    • Fewer than half of meetings start on time
    • CEOs, CTOs, and founders are more likely to be late to meetings than their underlings
    • Midwest meetings are more likely to start on time than meetings on the East or West coast
    • Nearly 1 in 2 meetings take place between 10:00 am and 2:00 pm
    • Wednesdays and Thursdays are the most popular meeting days
    • 1 in 10 meetings are held on weekends
    • Participants join meetings from a multitude of locations and devices including laptops or desktops (77% of the time), conference rooms (56% of the time), telephones (30% of the time) and video-enabled mobile devices (30% of the time)

    But as anyone who's sat through one too many business meetings knows, technology is no panacea for poor management. If your meeting host ignores the do's and don'ts of great meetings, no investment in technology can save participants from boredom and frustration. Here's Ramakrishnan's meeting advice:

    1. If you don’t have an agenda, don’t have a meeting. Creating an agenda only takes 10 minutes and it keeps everyone on track and ensures that your most important issues get addressed.

    2. Start on time and penalize repeat latecomers. Blue Jeans Network's analysis finds that more than half of attendees are late to meetings. This is a bad habit and waste of time.

    3. Document the meeting. Assign a person the task of jotting down meeting minutes. One person can’t remember everything discussed, but with written notes the recall becomes much easier.

    4. Schedule strategically. Mondays are manic, but 61 percent of meetings occur on Wednesday and Thursday. These "hotspots" cause congestion and overkill. Schedule during off-peak hours and remember that people tend to like to keep their first hour of the day to get organized for the rest of their day and their last few hours to tackle the action items that accumulated throughout the day.

    5. Everyone loves free food. Blue Jeans Network finds a 20 percent decline in meetings between noon and 1:00 pm, but don't underestimate the benefits of the working lunch.

    6. Ditch the phone and use video conferencing. Live video provides a more intimate experience, by showing participant body and facial expressions. It also eliminates the temptation to multitask during the meeting.

    Stu Aaron, chief commercial officer at Blue Jeans, points out another advantage of video meetings: “The savings of not traveling from New York to San Francisco or Los Angeles reaches beyond dollars and cents. Video-meetings spare people hassles at airports and anxiety while offline during a flight. Even for those who do have to travel, video conferencing makes it possible to stay better connected and engaged with their colleagues back home, rather than becoming a second class citizen on the dark end of a phone line.”

    And when you attend by video, if the meeting is unproductive, you can be grateful you didn't waste days getting there and back.

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