How to Plan Better Meetings with an Empathetic Approach

From meetings that go on and on with no end in sight, to meetings where participants are playing with their smartphones and wondering why they are even there, meetings take up a good chunk of your workday but they often feel like a waste of time. Most organizations depend on meetings to accomplish tasks and achieve team success. But are meetings at your organization the most effective and efficient that they can be? Chances are, they aren’t. Managers and senior leaders typically spend over half their time at work in meetings, but studies have shown that 25-50% of meeting time is wasted.

The biggest problems in an organization, including the issue of pointless and ineffective meetings, seem to arise when there is a lack of shared understanding. It’s important to cultivate empathy and put yourself in another’s shoes to understand other people’s perspectives and the challenges they’re facing. Developing empathy for one another is not a one-time thing. It’s an ongoing process that requires you to constantly reach out to others and ask questions.

Oftentimes, organizations ignore interpersonal relations and empathy when addressing poor team dynamics. Instead, they focus on implementing new processes. While implementing new processes may seem quick and easy, it can actually make existing issues worse and erode transparency. By developing an empathetic approach, you can become better aware of other people’s feelings and understand how their feelings affect their needs.


Talk to Stakeholders & Get Their Perspective 

Want to avoid holding meetings that people dread going to or that they see as a waste of time? Start planning better meetings by using empathy as a starting point. Set your meeting agenda aside and consider these two factors:

  1. Who will be in the meeting and what are their roles and needs?
  2. Who will not be in the meeting but will be affected by what takes place in the meeting? What are their needs?

Talk to these two parties and see what they want to accomplish in the meeting. Ask them what the ideal outcome of the meeting will be. Try doing this even if this is a meeting you run regularly with your team. Checking in with your team can help to build trust and make them feel heard. While it can seem very tedious to do this for every single meeting you plan, it will pay off and save you a lot of time in the long run.


Define the Purpose of Your Meeting

After talking with stakeholders, clearly define your meeting’s purpose and objectives. What are you trying to accomplish? Are you trying to arrive at a decision? Are you alerting people to a change in strategy? Are you looking to brainstorm and get input from people about a new initiative? Avoid having standing meetings with a vague purpose. They are usually a waste of time. Is it a regular meeting you hold for operational purposes? If so, the meeting should be short and to the point.

Plan for the right people to be in the room and exclude the wrong people. No significant decisions can be made if the key people are not present. The number of attendees in a meeting should be limited because it’s hard to make decisions and get things done if there are too many cooks in the kitchen.

Meetings are essential to success in the workplace, but some steps need to be taken to maximize their value and productivity. To free up your time to plan effective meetings and spend less time scheduling them, try Resource Central. Resource Central is meeting room booking software for Microsoft Outlook® and Exchange that provides a quick overview of available meeting rooms and allows you to book a room and order extra services within Outlook in just a few clicks. Sign up for a  free trial or free online demo today!


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