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Do we have to?

Don’t you just love made-up figures. Especially when they’re stuck on the side of a bus.

Well, apparently pointless meetings will cost the economy an estimated £45bn this year, according to a new report by online scheduling tool, Doodle.

Huckletree’s Gabriela Hersham says: “We’ve all turned up to an external meeting only to realise that there’s no need to be there. Most of them can be done over the phone or email.”

Once you factor in travel, a one-hour chat with a client or partner can easily turn into a three-hour endeavour, adds Jennifer Quigley-Jones, founder of the marketing agency, Digital Voices.

“It’s harder to walk away physically from meetings, as you don’t want to appear rude.”

She suggests that fellow time-poor business owners hold a phone call before any conference and ask the difficult question: “What do we both want to achieve from doing it in person?” If the answer doesn’t offer any clear value, be strict and cancel it, she says. “It’s hard for entrepreneurs to value their time, but it’s their most precious asset.”

If you do have to host a phone meeting, share at least a loose agenda beforehand to maintain some structure and keep people on track. You can then signal the end by detailing what the next steps are. “It’s a clear yet polite way to show that you’re done,” adds Quigley-Jones.

When it comes to internal conferences, doing them in person is more crucial, thinks Huckletree’s Hersham, who has 44 staff. “Face-to-face means that you can get the team’s buy-in and ensure that you’re all on the same page,” she says.

Reading body language is also a key part in understanding how your employees are doing, while socialising is good for team cohesion and morale. “Just make sure that someone takes notes,” she adds.

Even with the best intentions, internal meetings can run over or off track, which is why cake brand and bakery owner, Ella Rauen-Prestes, has implemented a set of rules that she and her 11 staff must follow.

The first is that only one person from each required department must attend.

In a small start-up, it would be easy to get everyone together for all meetings, but even one additional person can slow things down, explains the Fitbakes founder.

Her second rule is never to have a meeting if it’s only two people who sit close by. “Just walk over,” she urges. “People talk more as a result, which helps with team-building and productivity.”

Finally, if the meeting is about anything to do with baking or a product, it must be held inside the kitchen. “There’s nowhere to sit, so decisions happen really fast,” says Rauen-Prestes. “I dare anyone to take more than 10 minutes to decide on something while standing up.”

Well that’s clear then. Whenever you are told to attend a meeting about bread or cake, insist it is held in the kitchen.



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