Meetings and Productivity: An Interview with Wayne Turmel

Meetings and Productivity: An Interview with Wayne Turmel
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Researching Message Not Received, I have come across some pretty powerful collaboration tools. Yes, there is life beyond e-mail. More and more of us are being asked to use virtual communication tools for webinars, training, and meetings. Especially meetings.

I recently spoke about this with friend and colleague Wayne Turmel, president of Wayne has just published Meet Like You Mean It: A Leader's Guide to Painless and Productive Virtual Meetings.

PS: Let's start with the elephant in the room. How big a problem are virtual meetings, anyway?

Let me give you some numbers that surprised even me in doing the research for the book. Think about the implications of this:
  • The average manager now spends half their day in virtual meetings (either by web presentation tools like Lync or WebEx) or conference calls.
  • 90% of project work is done by virtual teams. That alone counts for about 60% of capital expenditures, so the stakes are astronomical.
  • Studies show that people think 2/3 of their online meeting time is wasted.
  • 87% of managers say that using tools like these are critical to getting their work done
  • Only 10% of managers say they're competent or comfortable using those tools.
Think about it. Something that takes up over half our time, and is critical to productivity, is done using technology that people aren't using well. And they know it.

PS: Why are virtual meetings different than regular in-person meetings?

WT: In most ways they're not. People get hung up on the technology piece because that's obviously different. If you stop and think about it, though, the reasons we meet online are the same reasons we meet in person: to share information, collaborate, brainstorm, solve problems and get to know each other.

You want the same things out of your meeting attendees whether they're online or across the table: to be engaged, to take the information and apply it to their work, and to contribute and add value to the process. The problem is, that online, too many people are distracted and disenegaged, or they are multi-tasking, rather than paying attention.

I don't necessarily blame them for that. The only reason more people don't answer email or play solitaire in regular meetings is because we don't want to seem rude or get caught! So the challenge is to lead meetings where people are invested in the outcome, prepared to contribute, and engaged throughout. Some of that is complicated by technology, but none of it is made impossible. We have to change the way we think about meetings of all kinds.

Remember that 66% of people who think online meetings are a waste of time? That's only about 10% higher than the number for face to face meetings. The problem is the way we plan and lead meetings in general.

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