Remote Meetings Suck – The art of wasting US$1,500 per employee per month

Remote meetings suck! Not only do they waste a lot of time and money, but the patience of your audience as well. That’s the conclusion of hundreds of studies and reports completed over the past few decades. In addition, they waste a lot of money!

In any organization, regardless of size, there are never-ending discussions: “too many meetings”; “too long and unproductive”; “useless”; “waste of time” – and – “simply pointless”.  One article even described an employee wanting to “stab her leg with a pencil” to stop from screaming during a particularly torturous online staff meeting.  Another study discovered that a third of workers have seen colleagues fall asleep during presentations. Online meetings are becoming a modern plague that is consuming our workday and directly impacts overall workplace culture and happiness.

 

The Stats

One study showed that 17% of US employees would rather “watch paint dry” and 8% would even endure a root canal over a virtual meeting.

According to the Harvard Business Review: (https://hbr.org/2017/07/stop-the-meeting-madness)

  • 65% of participants in a study said meetings keep them from completing their own work,
  • 71% said meetings are unproductive and inefficient,
  • 64% said meetings come at the expense of deep thinking.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Because meetings are seen as a distraction by most employees, many actually bring other work to do during their meetings. Another survey of more than 2000 US workers highlighted that 92 percent confess to multitasking during meetings and 41 percent admit to doing so “often” or “all the time.” The most common activity being checking email (69%), working on unrelated projects (49%) and even eating (44%).

The pandemic, and hybrid work trend, is causing this problem to explode now. According to sources, like the US Bureau of Labor Statistics and software corporation Fuze, in the USA alone there are an unbelievable 36 million meetings per day, with an average duration of 1 hour per meeting, pre-pandemic.

The Toll of Online Meetings

This takes a collective toll on productivity, focus, and engagement. Not only does it impact the wellbeing of your teams, but also the bottom line. SalesCrunch, did the math; the cost of unproductive meetings can reach an average of $1,500 USD per employee per month, increases to $2,800 USD for managers, and balloons to $8,000 USD for executives.

At a national level, according to software company Decos Minute BV, US firms lose $37 Billion due to ineffective meetings annually. Even though this seems like a high number, the impact on the US economy could be even higher. If current average private sector hourly salaries and lengths of meetings are considered, over $180 Billion is lost on ineffective meetings. And that is still just the US.

How Much Time Is Wasted in Online Meetings?

What is the root cause of all this inefficiency? It is said that “only a poor craftsman blames his tools”.  Well, actually in this case it is okay to blame your tools. Clunky PowerPoint presentations, inefficient video conferences, and never-ending emails are wasting more and more of our time.  It turns out that a simple hour-long meeting can easily cost your team two and a half hours of time.  We routinely don’t consider the time that is consumed before, during, and after the meeting.  A host of mundane tasks; technical issues; the complexity of follow ups and creating linear PowerPoint presentations, all burn-up time and cause your teams to lose context.

Let’s consider the process for a typical meeting.

You Prepare

The time spent on meetings actually starts long before the beginning of the meeting itself, both for the presenter and the attendees.

With an estimated 1.25 million PowerPoint presentations each hour, PowerPoint is still the “go to” app when it comes time to present. An employee will spend an average of 10 minutes per slide to create it. For example, each piece of information must be gathered; every piece of content or media must be transformed and formatted to fit the PowerPoint presentation. Giant Excel spreadsheets must be converted and spread across several slides, videos must be embedded (if they are not too large), and web pages have to be converted to screenshots, or integrated as “hyperlinks”.

The Meeting Starts

Or does it? There is no shortage of problems to address. Why can’t we hear you, are you muted? Can you see us? Can you see my document? Oops, am I sharing the wrong window? Oh wait, let me launch another app and show you that piece of information!

Most of our online meetings today revolve around using the video conference software’s screen sharing feature to share content.  It is very hard to deviate from prepared decks and think in a more non-linear manner versus the strict meeting agenda that has been the norm in the past. When PowerPoint or other presentation tools were initially developed, text and numbers were pretty much the only things to present, but these products have not changed much over time, and now fail miserably when it comes to presenting Web content, video, and all the new types of file formats that people need to present during a virtual meeting.

So you now have to wait and launch all sort of apps, switch from one window to another, and try to arrange information on your cluttered screen. Efficiency is again taking a major hit and you can easily waste 10-20 minutes in your meeting.

And Everyone Is Distracted

Because products like Zoom and Teams are unidirectional presentation tools, your attendees are simply watching you passively. Like watching TV, but without the ads. While you diligently present some PowerPoint slides, they are checking their emails. A recent survey discovered that:

  • 92% of US workers admitted multitasking during meetings
  • 41% admitting to doing it “often” or “all the time”

It doesn’t help that after the first 30 minutes, attention span drops by 30%; 40% after 45 minutes. “Sorry, I missed that, what did you say?”

If a tree falls in the forest and no one was around to hear it – did it make a sound?

If you are presenting and no one is paying attention – did you accomplish anything?

As soon as there is no visual stimuli and you let PowerPoint take over the screen, your audiences’ attention declines at an exponential rate. They have nothing to focus on except your slide, you probably turned your camera off and your voice and the slide quickly get disconnected.

Our analysis has shown that people have become accustomed to wasting 20-30 minutes during every meeting due to these issues.

Post Meeting

Because attendees are multitasking during the meeting, the message gets lost on many people. This results in multiple follow-up questions and requests: time wasted on follow up.

Each presentation is often followed by multiple requests for the presenter’s PowerPoint presentation. Between the follow-up emails, summarizing notes, compiling notes and emails you will spend an average of 20 minutes post meeting.

The lack of focus during the meeting leads to the team wasting time asking questions that were answered during the meeting. It can lead to mistakes. Employees that got the information wrong, or partially wrong will lose anything from hours to days on a misdirected task; another hit on the overall productivity.

“Let’s just have a quick follow-up meeting.” The usual result of an inefficient meeting. The follow-up meeting is unlikely to be any more efficient than the original meeting.  Again, teams can easily waste an additional 20-30 minutes in the post meeting dealing with all of these issues.

Talk is cheap, meetings are not.

Time is money. Between the creation of the first PowerPoint slide and the last follow up email, the hit on the bottom line grows. As much as US$25 million per day in the USA alone. That’s a huge yearly total of US$37 billion, and it’s not just a US problem. A recent study from the UK that estimates the cost of ineffective meetings to be about 20,000 pounds per year for employees as well in the UK.

Does this data make you anxious? It should because that’s not the “best” part. The quoted numbers are a “low estimate”! Because the trend is one of moving toward more remote teams and more meetings, these numbers are likely to grow – rapidly.

Each company has its own ideas for a solution. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos applied a simple rule; “Don’t plan a meeting in which two pizzas are not enough to feed everyone present”, and he banned PowerPoint. LinkedIn banned PowerPoint as well. Even if these two giants are on the right path, mostly blaming outdated tools, they still came up short on proposals to replace them.

How to make meetings more productive

With such an impact on productivity, office morale, and most of all on the result of companies, there’s a big opportunity for something better. Where most productivity solutions are falling short of expectations, there are some existing “solutions” that try to address each above within one package.

Consider for a moment… What if there were a simple and intuitive, off-the-shelf virtual meeting tool that really focused on interactive presentations, to help you break free? What if this tool allowed you to be more memorable so people stayed focused and actually absorbed the information you were presenting?

At Vizetto, we are taking interactive presentation tools to another level with Reactiv SUITE.

Reactiv SUITE is revolutionizing the way people communicate and share by creating a “Digital Table” where multiple remote users can simultaneously access, push, and manipulate any type of content as if it were a piece of paper. Reactiv SUITE simplifies mundane tasks involved with collaboration such as, inking, marking up, tracking changes, and archiving not only to save you time but to let you focus on being creative. How would that translate to your weekly meeting? Let’s take a look.

Meeting preparation: because Reactiv adapts to your workflow, you still gather the information that you need to present, but instead of doing multiple screenshots and arrange them into a PowerPoint, you simply drop every document, web-links  and media you need into a single folder on your company network-drive, a cloud of your choice, or on a USB flash drive, the choice is yours and that simple process alone will make any employee save from 10 minutes to hours.

Looking at the process during meetings, we identified every bottleneck and addressed them one by one. The software is bundled with many smart features, all designed to improve productivity, interactivity and simplicity.

The cherry on the cake? These numerous features are not at the expense of the user experience.  Within one intuitive interface, you can open any type of file, you can interact with files as if they were papers on a table, move them; resize; compare; also marking up; saving; editing; making our ecosystem the most versatile tool to date for all types of meetings, from presentation to brainstorming or training.  Simply ink natively into documents, automatically save new revisions and track changes back to your data repository.  Share these changes with your teammates without the need for creating additional email threads and clunky attachments.

By removing the empty pauses during presentations, Reactiv SUITE drastically increases the level of attention of attendees, as well as the level of comprehension, while helping to each presentation more concise and effective, and thereby up to 15 to 30 minutes shorter.

Discover how Reactiv SUITE can help make your meetings memorable with a free trial.

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