Do you like dating? Neither do I.

I realized it was time to leave my last job when I realized I was spending an average of six hours a day in meetings, many of which I had been asked to attend strictly for informational purposes.

Read.ai has raised €10 million in an effort to better understand what's wrong with meetings so the people running them can do better.

Their software analyzes basic metrics like start and end times, attendance, and time spent on different topics. It then incorporates observations derived from machine learning from audio and video recordings that indicate engagement levels measured by factors such as engagement, tone of voice, and visual expressions.

In April, the company released a report based on an analysis of more than three million tracked meeting minutes, and it contained some compelling insights.

Roughly one in five meetings are considered inadequate by attendees, with only 46% receiving a "good" rating.

Among the reasons given, the number of attendees who arrive late increases with the size of the meeting, reaching 51% of those who arrive late for meetings of seven or more people.

On average, 30% of attendees are late, a quarter are unengaged, one person speaks in nearly half of most small meetings, and 22% of attendees in meetings of seven or more don't say a word.

These results pretty much reflect my own experience, so I was interested in speaking with Read.ai co-founder David Shim for advice on how to improve meetings. They boiled down to these seven factors.

  • start on time. Bad meetings go off the rails early, says Shim. The average starts at 3,3 minutes late, which doesn't sound like much until you multiply the time lost by the number of people in the room. The later the start time, the more disconnected the group will be. Newcomers also tend to participate less than those who were there from the beginning. “Initially it creates a feeling of depression,” says Shim.
  • Invite fewer peopleespecially in large gatherings. “Of meetings of seven or more people, we find that 40% don't engage in conversation,” says Shim. "The fact that you decide to invite too many people puts everyone in a hole because they are afraid of offending others." Instead, people who rarely contribute to the discussion should be removed from the invite list or actively encouraged to speak.
  • Know when to shut up. Research has found that one person typically consumes almost half the talk time in meetings of three and six people. It's a conference, and conferences are boring. "We're seeing a drop in engagement as fewer people monopolize the conversation," says Shim. “Bringing in people who haven't spoken is valuable because it makes them feel involved. It is the responsibility of the host to know who will attend.
  • shorter meetings. As a journalist, I get a lot of arguments for executive mentions and product launches, so years ago I started limiting all those meetings to 20 minutes. I've found that the more compressed schedule forces people to start on time, get to the point faster, and reduce the chatter. Read.ai's research agrees. It found that attendee engagement drops 16% from start to finish of an average meeting, and disengagement hits more than 40% in meetings longer than 50 minutes. Shim's advice is simple: "Put the important things first," she says.
  • Avoid back to back and awkward moments. The value decreases as the number of meetings accumulates, says Shim. "People are more likely to be late or noncommittal, and there's a point where you can run into someone too much," she says. Friday afternoon meetings are singularly unpopular. The best times of the week are Tuesday and Wednesday mornings.
  • Video in. Although many of us have a love/hate relationship with the camera during video calls, Read.ai's research indicates that having it on "leads to better responses from others," says Shim. "Even if you don't like having a video, it tends to give others the impression that there is some level of engagement." Also, you can't fall asleep that easily.
  • ask for feedback. Many web survey creators offer limited free subscriptions that are perfectly sufficient for collecting anonymous post-meeting feedback. Since few of us are experts at meeting facilitation, it seems a shame not to use them.
  • Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

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