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For many the sight of a calendar littered with meetings is enough to give them anxiety, and leaving others asking “why do I have to go to these meetings?”. According to attentive.com those sentiments are not unwarranted. Today, the average salary cost of a meeting in the United States is $338 per person, which is an adjusted average that does not include high-paid CEOs and other business leaders. Those meetings can cost upwards of $20,000 per event. The reason for such a high cost? Apparently we don’t make the best use of our time when we meet. John Kenneth Galbraith, a Canadian-American Economist, once said “Meetings are indispensable when you don’t want to do anything.” 63% of meetings that take place are conducted without a pre-planned agenda or any real need to occur. But let’s get back to that disheartening mood that consumes many with a busy meeting schedule. According to the data, 33.4% of attendees consider the meeting unproductive or a waste of time. The most common complaints stem from the lack of organization, preparation and decision making at meetings.

 Meetings are indispensable when you don’t want to do anything.

There are roughly 220 million meetings per month in the United States, and the average meeting length is 31-60 minutes. That’s a lot of time being taken away from other tasks. But the same can be said for the opposite end of the spectrum. According to the Harvard Business Review the typical company’s senior executives spend less than three days each month working together as a team—and in that time they devote less than three hours to strategic issues. And guess what? Those meetings suffer from time-wasting as well.

Annual salary cost of meetings per person
Meetings take place without a set agenda
Of people consider meetings pointless
Average length of meetings in minutes

It comes down to the fact that meetings generally stray off-topic or dwell on certain parts of the agenda instead of moving on and dealing with other issues. The balancing act is difficult, both quality and pace are important. Obviously, poor decisions made too quickly will lead to adverse effects, but you don’t want to spend too long and risk leaving out important topics. This is applicable on an internal project basis as well as a client basis.

Whether you have too little time or just don’t want to waste the time physically participating in a meeting it’s hard to argue against the fact that telephones, webclients like Citrix Goto Meetings, or Cisco’s Webex Meetings, and BlackBerry’s very own BBM Meetings have become a godsend in a world where our work requires us to constantly be in contact and updating project groups on the fly.

With so many people travelling to and from various corners of the city, country, or world it’s hard to count on physically being in any one place at any one moment. But some of the earliest forms of teleconferencing technology have enabled us, inadvertently, to waste even more time. It’s easy to just dial into a meeting and work on other stuff without actually paying attention to what’s going on until you’re needed. We’ve lost that desire or need to pay attention in a lot of our meetings.

Technology alone doesn’t necessarily lead to more efficient meetings, it seems that requires a more human touch, but newer and more advanced teleconferencing tools like BBM Meetings do hold the key to creating better, more engaged and focused meetings. It seems like we were all so eager to stop attending meetings physically that we started to miss out on some of the most vital human interactions that they used to leave us with. According to psychologists and behavioral scientists, facial expressions, hand gestures, voice tone and the like provide more clues to listeners than the words themselves. Questions like “is this meeting going well?” or “Did he like what I just mentioned?” can often be gauged by the visual cues our fellow meeting participants give off. Visually seeing the other parties, like while using BBM Meeting’s video conferencing feature, let attendees develop transparency and trust in ways that are not always possible via voice chat communications.

It seems like we were all so eager to stop attending meetings physically that we started to miss out on some of the most vital human interactions that they used to leave us with

The key is being able to replicate those natural face-to-face communications without leaving out the ability to communicate remotely. According to studies that Dr. Arvey, a psychologist and professor with the National University of Singapore, it was determined that group processes and outcomes that require coordination, consensus, timing and persuasion of others were better accomplished up close and personal. And companies who invested in face-to-face meetings found added revenues and profits.

bbm_meetings_icon_berryflowCue BBM Meetings and its ability to host a wide range of participant configurations from a completely remote meeting to hybrid meetings. In a December survey of its customers, a leading New York-based organization that provides meeting-management technology, found that the majority considered the capability to host a hybrid meeting — which incorporates remote attendees into a face-to-face gathering — as “somewhat” or “very” important. More and more, companies don’t see a black-and-white divide between face-to-face meetings and virtual connections. The two are complementing each other. And that’s the beauty of the technology, we no longer have to choose one particular setup, our tools are able to adjust just like our types of meetings adjust.

Since the economic downturn, travel budgets have been considerably cut. Instead of eliminating face-to-face meetings, many companies simply reduced the number of its people who attend them requiring more hybrid meetings. In past times, the company might have a team of account and technical personnel at a key meeting. Now, they might send two people in person and have the rest participate through video conferencing. As a result, the company trims meeting costs, while still giving customers a true face-to-face experience.

It’s important to acknowledge that for all the benefits that technology brings there is still something inherently human about interacting with other people visually and in person. For the time-being major companies still rely on people for making decisions and it still requires people to convince and persuade others to make decisions. Business isn’t merely a cocktail of numbers, they’re comprised of people like you and I, and the key to unlocking that potential is by using technology that can tap into those innate desires and needs we have.

Learn more about mobile-first productivity solutions that will help you and your business stay connected on the go and maintain that vital human element to our interactions:

Brandon Orr

Author Brandon Orr

Professional Transportation Planner & Blackberry 10 Developer part of the open source BB team.

More posts by Brandon Orr
  • Big Chief

    That’s pretty expensive just to have a meeting.