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How to eliminate meeting pain points and stop wasting time

Love ’em or hate ’em, meetings are an essential platform for sharing information, brainstorming new ideas, and collaborating as a team. But are they always necessary? It doesn’t seem so, finds new research from Accountemps. Professionals surveyed said they spend more than one-fifth (21 percent) of their work hours in meetings but feel a quarter of that time is wasted.

Workers cited the most common issues in meetings include*:

Starts or ends late


It’s unnecessary (e.g., could’ve been handled over email)


Too much or not enough time allotted


Attendees distracted (using phone, checking email, doodling, etc.)


Attendees interrupt each other


Not sticking to an agenda when one is provided


Attendees unprepared


*Top responses only; multiple responses allowed

“People complain about how much time they spend in meetings, and it’s true that not all of them are necessary,” said Michael Steinitz, executive director of Accountemps. “But it’s also true that these gatherings, whether they’re held on-site or remotely, are often the most efficient way to communicate, collaborate and come to a decision. Both meeting planners and attendees can control whether or not a meeting is productive.”

Here are some ways to remedy the biggest meeting issues:

For meeting planners:

  • Consider alternatives. If all you need to do is give brief updates, email will suffice. But when you want to build consensus, get buy-in or find solutions — anything that requires a discussion — meetings are the way to go.
  • Limit attendees. Invite only those who need to participate. Smaller meetings tend to run more efficiently than larger ones.
  • Time it right. There’s no rule that meetings must be scheduled in 30-minute increments. Consider 15- or 45-minute sessions if you can cover everything in a shorter period.
  • Meet in person. Phone conferences are practical, saving companies time and money. But for long-format meetings, when you need everyone’s attention and participation, bring staff in-house.
  • Create an agenda. Structure can set expectations and save time. Assign owners to topics and let them know the allotted timeframe they have to speak. Send the agenda out in advance so participants can contribute to the meeting.

For attendees:

  • Be prepared. Nothing wastes more time than attendees who aren’t ready to speak, don’t have the right handouts or must search their computer to find information.
  • Arrive on time. When you’re late to a meeting, other participants must either wait for you (which wastes time) or start without you (causing you to miss vital information).
  • Pay attention. It’s poor workplace etiquette to focus on your phone or laptop while others are speaking. When you listen intently and ask good follow-up questions, not only do you leave better informed, but you also impress your boss and colleagues.
  • Take turns. There’s nothing more frustrating than people talking over each other. If you start speaking after someone else does, be gracious and yield the floor to them.

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