Productivity dragged down by inefficient meeting culture

business meeting

A new international research by Barco ClickShare has revealed why business meetings are chronically inefficient and the impact this has on productivity.

The study surveyed 2,250 senior business professionals from companies in the United Kingdom, United States, Germany, France and the United Arab Emirates, exploring their meeting experiences in day-to-day working life. A further scientific experiment was also carried out with a small number of senior business executives, using EEG brain mapping technology to test their psychological responses to common meeting room scenarios.

The results highlight a range of issues that lead to disengagement, distraction and irritation for employees around the world. Simple factors like technology issues, the presence of food, seating arrangements and lack of engaging content were shown to have a significant negative impact on the effectiveness of meetings.

Endemic disengagement

The study revealed the true extent of our shared dislike for business meetings, which many respondents believe are poorly run at best or, at worst, completely pointless. Nearly a third of respondents globally said they found less than half of their meetings to be useful, while 30% also said they had dozed off in a meeting before. The UK, in fact, led the way in the asleep-in-meeting stakes, with nearly half (48%) of all UK respondents saying they’d fallen asleep in meetings.

Checking emails and social media during meetings was also extremely common and another indication of disengagement and distraction. Over 70% of people said they regularly checked emails during meetings, while 37% access social media.

Tech troubles

Of the factors that impact engagement in meetings, technology was identified as one of the most influential. 67% of global respondents are regularly irritated by tech going wrong in meetings, with 4 in 10 feeling that their engagement would be affected by a failure in technology. Conversely, technology being correctly harnessed can improve engagement and productivity: 72% of respondents stated that the use of multimedia content in a presentation makes them feel more engaged.

There was a noticeable difference in comparisons between countries. German business people were the least affected by tech issues in meetings, whereas 55% of UAE-based respondents reported losing focus in meetings due to tech issues. The UK had a high propensity for tech issues also, with 48% reporting disengagement because of tech failure.

Food for thought

The study exposed the prominent role that food plays in engagement levels in meetings. Well over half of respondents admitted to attending meetings purely for the free food. While brain mapping showed that mood of attendees is enhanced by the presence of food, almost a third of business people surveyed said they were distracted by food in business meetings.

Lieven Bertier, Head of Go to Market Strategy and Services Meeting Experience at Barco: “Once a meeting is underway, it’s reasonable to assume that engagement levels are governed by the quality of the speaker. However, our research identified that the success of a meeting is determined by a variety of different factors. These factors include having the right technology at the beginning of the meeting to ensure a seamless flow of information, controlling the meeting room environment such as the serving of food, meeting room layout, and disturbances caused by lateness and work device usage. If a business prepares for these eventualities in the right way the probability of a positive outcome is increased, whether this is for an internal company meeting or a presentation to clients and new business prospects.”

Dr Peter Collett, behavioural psychologist who led the experiment: “While many studies focus on how the presenter acts and behaves to improve meeting success, the research conducted by Barco ClickShare presents a unique insight into the factors which may go left un-noticed. Presenters must ensure that the technology works and the room is set-up correctly for the audience. Starting on time and reducing interruptions will greatly increase success but using multimedia and injecting personality will ensure a great experience for all.”

Read the full results of the study here.

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