Results are in. How effective are meetings?

Ugh. Meetings.

These patience-testing, time-sucking rituals have been around since the dawn of work, and they’re still alive and well.

But are they effective? We decided to ask our users to find out.

We surveyed more than 700 JotFormers to learn which industries and job functions spent the most time in meetings, how effective they feel like their meetings are, and what percentage of the meetings take place in person.

The results were a little surprising.

By and large, meetings are seen as an effective use of time by JotForm users (that was the surprising part to me).

On a sliding scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being “ineffective” and 5 being “very effective,” only 16.6 percent of JotForm users selected a 1 or 2. That means, more or less, about 83 percent of JotForm users find their organizational meetings to be pretty useful.

But this varies pretty significantly when viewed through the lenses of industry type and role within the company.

We’ll consider the average number on the sliding scale to be a group’s Meeting Effectiveness Score.

Which industries find meetings the most and least useful?

JotForm users working in government have the greatest appreciation for meetings. On average, they rated the effectiveness of their meetings as a 4.38 out of 5. Curiously, our government employee respondents also conducted the highest percentage of their meetings in person — 88 percent. The rest of the respondents met in person about 62 percent of the time, with video and phone meetings comprising the rest.

Here’s a look at the industries with the five highest Meeting Effectiveness Scores:

  • Government: 4.38
  • Arts and Entertainment: 4.17
  • Design: 4.05
  • Software: 4
  • Publishing: 4

On the other end of the spectrum, the gaming industry sees meetings as being the biggest waste of time, with an average effectiveness score of 2.

  • Gaming: 2
  • Finance: 2.88
  • Video and Photography: 2.75
  • Engineering: 3
  • Food and Beverage: 3

It’s hard to draw conclusions from these scores, although you could make the case that the industries with high meeting effectiveness scores lend themselves to more bigger picture, brainstorming type of meetings (government, I imagine, being the exception).

Which job roles are most likely to value meetings?

Survey respondents identified themselves by four broad job functions: associate, manager, director, and owner/founder. Here are their meeting effectiveness scores:

  • Associate: 3.41
  • Director: 3.59
  • Manager: 3.64
  • Owner: 3.66

Is it surprising to see that the higher up the ladder you climb at a company, the more likely you are to value meetings? Managers and owners are more likely to conduct meetings than associate-level employees, so it makes sense.

Which industries spend the most time in meetings?

On the whole, 37 percent of JotForm users spend at least three hours per week in meetings. And 18 percent of you spend five hours or more in meetings. There’s no getting around it — that’s a lot of time.

If you’re in the advertising, marketing, and PR industry, congratulations! More of you indicated that you spend more than five hours a week in meetings than any other industry. Given that this industry consists of agencies with lots of clients, that’s not a surprise. However, by percentage, five other industries are actually more likely to spend upwards of five hours in meetings every week.

Here’s a list of the industries with the highest percentage responding that they spend more than five hours a week in meetings:

  • Software: 46 percent
  • Real Estate: 31 percent
  • Rental: 29 percent
  • Information Technology: 26 percent
  • Nonprofit: 25 percent

Working at a software company, that hurts a little to see. But I know firsthand how it happens. I meet with every one of my team members several times per week to discuss our progress. I have meetings with other companies about partnerships. We meet with contractors helping us with PR or writing. We have recap meetings. And I’m not even on the technical or design side, where they have loads of things to discuss.

One solution we’ve discovered at JotForm is having teams work in individual team offices, where they can share and express ideas on the fly. Everyone knows what the rest of their small team is working on, and it significantly reduces the need for extra meetings.

On the flip side, here are the five industries with the highest percentage that reported spending an hour or less in meetings each week:

  • Gaming: 80 percent
  • Home Services: 78 percent
  • Agriculture: 64 percent
  • Video and Photography: 50 percent
  • Food & Beverage: 48 percent

Tips to make your meetings more effective

Only meet when absolutely necessary

It might sound obvious. But nearly every organization suffers from some level of over-meeting.

I know we did. We used to regularly have status meetings where everyone discussed what they were working on. The problem was, we already knew what most everyone was working on, and if we didn’t, we could have figured out pretty quickly over email or Slack.

So we ended the status meetings. And you should too.

Start on time

The only thing more annoying than someone showing up late for a meeting is everyone else waiting for them.

Why?

Because it’s an unbelievable waste of everyone’s time.

Starting a meeting on time is the surest way to ensure it will end on time, or that you’ll cover the things you need to cover. If you’re holding a meeting and waiting on someone, or you’re unprepared (not having the technology or presentation set up, for instance), then you are costing your company money.

Create an agenda

Having an agenda reduces the off-topic conversations. Before our meetings, we’ll send around an agenda that anyone can add suggestions to. When the time for the meeting comes, we go right down the list. It keeps the conversations from derailing and keeps the meetings from running unnecessarily long.

What about you? What helps you to hold better meetings? Let us know in the comments.

Chad is VP of Marketing and Communications at JotForm. He’s also a frequent contributor to various tech and business publications, and an absolute wizard with a Vitamix. He holds a master’s degree in communication and resides with his girlfriend and cats in Oakland, California. You can reach Chad through his contact form.

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