When Should a Meeting be an Email

By John A. Bennett, jbennett@lessitermedia.com
Digital Media Director, Lessiter Media

We’ve all been there: Sitting in a meeting which lacks focus, purpose, and relevance to our day-to-day workload. When you couple that with the weight of all the tasks that need to be accomplished in a given day, meetings can then become a real hindrance. So, it’s no surprise that when we look around the table at a meeting, few are truly engaged.

Here are just a few of the truths surrounding the effectiveness of meetings:

  • The average employee attends 62 meetings per month
  • 50% of these meetings are considered to be a waste of time
  • 91% of participants daydream during meetings
  • 62% say meetings miss opportunities to bring the team closer together
  • 39% of people sleep during meetings
  • Almost 75% of people do other work in meetings
    (Statistics from The Muse and Atlassian)

Yet the conundrum exists. We have meetings to improve communication and connect people, however, if there is no defined reason or structure, those attending can easily unplug, lose interest, and question why they were asked to be included. So, the obvious question is: When should a meeting be an email?

Here are 4 questions to ask yourself before scheduling that next meeting:

  1. Do I have several questions that will need specific data time to find answers?
  2. Am I looking for feedback on a plan or proposal?
  3. Am I looking to share information that has specific or intricate details?
  4. Am I looking to provide and receive status updates?

If you answered “yes,” then that communication should be handled as an email. If the answer was “no,” and the goal of getting the team together is to debate and discuss an idea to ultimately make decisions, then a meeting is the right choice.

In order to keep your meetings from turning into a dreaded time-waster, here are 5 ways to make and keep them productive:

  1. Invite only the people that really need to be there
  2. Start by stating the purpose of the meeting. “In this meeting, our goal is to _____”
  3. Have an agenda
  4. Keep it as brief as possible
  5. Send follow-up email to those who attended and those impacted my items discussed

By asking the defining questions up front, selecting the right communication method, and structuring the information effectively to gain the desired outcome and results, you are well on your way to discerning when an email will suffice instead.

Meeting Comic