Meetings – A Necessary Evil?

Meetings – A Necessary Evil?



“If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be ‘meetings.”
Dave Barry


I just read some fascinating facts concerning meetings.  According to a survey conducted in the UK, the average worker spends around 16 hours in meetings each week.  Even more astonishing, the workers go on to state that a quarter of this time is wasted – that’s four hours of pointless meetings every week.  Over a year, that’s 200 hours – almost nine full 24-hour days.  Imagine wasting over a year in the course of your career. 

Granted this is in the UK.  Is it any better here at home in the US?  Not really.

Executives average 20-23 hours per week in meetings, with 7 of those hours being unnecessary or poorly run.

Managers spend 10-14 hours a week in meetings and 90% say more than half that time is wasted.  On an average day, there are 17 million meetings in America (11 million are formal meetings).

  • 9 out of 10 people daydream in meetings.
  • 60% of meeting attendees take notes to appear as if they are listening.
  • 63% of the time, typical meetings in America do not have prepared agendas.
  • Studies point out that as much as 50% of meeting time is unproductive and that up to 25% is spent discussing irrelevant issues.
  • Industry Week called meetings “the Great White Collar Crime” estimating they waste 37 billion dollars a year.
  • In a survey reported in Industry Week, 2000 managers claimed that at least 30 percent of their time spent in meetings were a waste of time.
  • A collaborative 2012 study by Microsoft, America Online and, concluded that the average worker actually worked only three days per week or about 1.5 hours per day. The study identified that the rest of the working time was “wasted,” with unproductive meetings heading the list.




“Meetings are indispensable when you don’t want to do anything.”

– John Kenneth Galbraith

I know of no one that has the luxury of wasting half their time.  Most people I know answer work emails in the evenings and on weekends.  Many people participate on work related conference calls while on vacation.  How many answer / send work related text messages during their children’s activities.  Yet, we waste half our time.  Is our addiction to meetings so bad that we refuse to change? 

If you absolutely must have meetings, here are some suggestions on making them more productive:

  • An effective / productive meeting starts and ends on time. 
    • Always start the meeting on time, regardless of people who are late.
    • Do not review the contents of the meeting with the people who are late for the part they missed.
    • Don’t let people who are late to the meeting by more than 15 minutes join.
    • End the meeting on the agreed-upon time, even if the agenda is not finished.
  • Whoever calls the meeting should “own” the meeting.
    • Distributes agenda to all participants at least 2-3 days before the meeting.
    • Don’t tolerate meeting participants working on other things during the meeting.
    • At the beginning of the meeting, ensure that the desired outcome(s) are stated clearly.
    • The meeting leader should enforce only one person speaking at a time, and to the point.
  • The meeting should always produce a committed action plan.


“We’re now addicted to meetings that insulate us from the work we ought to be doing.” 

– Al Pittampalli, author of “Read This Before Our Next Meeting


We’ve all attended and scheduled meetings, how do you run your meetings?  What have you done to make your meetings (more) productive?  What additional suggestions can you share with us?



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