Whether face to face or virtual, meetings need to accomplish your board or department goals — to allow interaction and decision making on important matters. If your meetings aren’t successful, then someone will have to break down the meeting process and determine what’s wrong.

On that note, I discovered an old research paper on meetings named Meeting Analysis: Findings from Research and Practice. It has an extensive list of survey results and insights into why business people have meetings, and the potential problems many are having with them. It is based on studies conducted by Xerox and 3M among others.

They don’t offer any solutions for the problem. They sought to discover attitudes and issues with meeting planning and activities.

Meeting Analysis? You’ve Got to Be Kidding

Well, someone has to figure it out! The topic of meeting analysis might be a little flat reading, but it should enliven meeting managers who need to know that the meetings they arrange can and will be productive. Meetings are a key element of business life so they really do deserve some study to determine what works and what doesn’t.

Two important findings from the paper were that groups can perform better than individuals and that meetings make groups more effective. That is if, things are ideal.

From J Hall’s research study, he found that:

“When a group’s final decision is compared to the independent points of view that the members held before entering the group, the group’s effort is almost always an improvement over its average individual resource, and often it is better than even the best individual contribution.”

In another study from G.W. Hill, the author analyzed experimental comparisons of groups and individuals on four dimensions: task, process, individual differences, and methodology. The overall results of the review and analysis showed that “group performance was generally qualitatively and quantitatively superior to the performance of the average individual.”

CEOs Believe Something is Wrong with Meetings

In another study of CEO’s however, the study’s author discovered 1/3rd of 600 CEO’s felt that meetings were not worth the time and of only marginal value and seventy-three percent (73%) questioned meeting effectiveness in terms of lack of planning, discussions on irrelevant topics, or excessive meeting length. Other research also brings out the feeling that meeting time is very unproductive and spent on irrelevant issues. So why do they keep meeting with the same outcomes?

The literature shows that groups meet for many different reasons. This chart below shows examples from the literature of Why Groups Meet.

To Make Decisions

  • Socialize
  • Review
  • Synergy
  • Solve Problems
  • Share work
  • Long Range Planning
  • Education
  • Information Exchange
  • Sales Reorganization

To Avoid Decisions

  • Build Trust
  • Share Visions
  • Build Consensus
  • Surface Perspectives
  • Build Teams
  • Planning Handling Emergencies
  • Training
  • Information Exchange
  • Reorganization

Table 1 shows meeting purposes by percentage from the 3M Study. Almost two thirds (66%) of the meetings involved complex group processes: reconcile conflict (29%); reach a group judgment or decision (26%); solve a problem (11%).

Meeting Purposes by Percentage

  • 29% Reconcile Conflict
  • 26% Reach a group judgement or decision
  • 11% Solve a problem
  • 11% Ensure that everyone understands
  • 5% Facilitate staff communication
  • 4% Gain support for a program
  • 4% Explore new ideas and concepts
  • 2% Accept reports
  • 2% Demonstrate a project or system

(Percentages based on 903 Meetings)


On the topic of preparation, 75% of respondents in the 3M study spent less than one hour preparing for the meeting, yet they believed they were well prepared.

Preparation Level by Percentage

  • 25% Very Prepared
  • 54% Prepared
  • 15% Somewhat Prepared
  • 5% Unprepared
  • 1% Very Unprepared

Time Spent in Meetings

The report showed that managers spend a very high percentage of their time in meetings, 50% from 30 minutes to over 4 hours per day. From top to bottom in the organization, optimizing meetings should create positive ROI.

This data is slightly aging, but I think we can conclude that although meeting managers feel prepared, they probably aren’t prepared well enough. Meeting time may be wasted on trying to solve conflicts that could be managed more efficiently another way. Managers are expecting to spend more time in meetings, yet we wonder whether they’re doing much to improve meeting performance and outcomes?

Are you ready to adopt online meeting software, either as a hosted service or on your own server? See what others believe has been the key feature of their paperless meeting software. You can even host on the cloud.

Exciting new technology is changing how meetings are conducted and of what can be accomplished in a meeting. The iPad and other tablets, are creating access for more people to meetings. The advent of electronic signaturing means there is no need for paper at meetings anymore. Soon, people will be coming to your municipal meetings with wearable technology such as Google Glass.