Meet around data, not the meeting room


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

John Kenneth Galbraith, US economist (b.1908)

How many times have you caught yourself daydreaming about weekend plans, stressing about pending projects, or just dozing off in one of those seemingly never-ending meetings? You’re certainly not alone. The Atlassian reports US businesses waste a whopping $37 billion in useless meetings every year. But there has to be a better way to collaborate without losing so much productive time and money, right?

Your organization may have embraced a data-driven culture to make well-informed decisions, but there is still a difference between having access to information and being able to successfully act on it as a team. As you make the challenging transition between the two you may find yourself called into many pesky meetings. In order to reduce the occurrence of this, businesses have the opportunity utilize solutions, like performance dashboards, to responsibly make key data-informed decisions in a timely manner, no useless meetings required.

If your organization has already taken the wise step to become more data-driven, continue on that same productive path by guarding yourself against meetnapping, or more blatantly put, useless meetings!

There are certain norms that organizations can follow to improve the meeting structures, such as cutting down on the number of attendees, following a strict agenda, or even not having a meeting at all. While there are numerous options you can use to better organize your meetings, we suggest going one step further by using data to bring even greater value to your meetings in order to make them as beneficial and productive as possible.

So how can we use data to optimize productivity and reduce the amount of time lost in meetings?

Define strategic business objectives

Having clearly defined strategic business objectives can help you keep meetings short and on point. Dashboards containing objective-linked KPIs can be especially useful in promoting effective meetings as they answer ‘what’ determines our success and how far along we are to reaching it, essentially providing the basis behind our meeting focus.

KPI objectives

When meeting with our team, we are able to quickly get insight into how our KPIs are performing and can structure our conversations around them, without losing time on insignificant metrics. However, if we don’t define any strategic objectives we won’t know if we have made any real strides towards success, which means we will never be able to make impactful decisions.

Deliver data – but only to those who need it!

Teams can benefit from having information readily available and shared. Having said that, I’m not referring to sharing the social media report with the entire organization, but making sure those who may be able to benefit and optimize their output based on certain indicators have access to them. We can keep productivity time high and time wasted in meetings low, if we allow executives to analyze and access reports to make decisions daily.

When information is shared with those who are able to interact with and benefit from it, organizations are not only providing invaluable resources, but also promoting accountability. In the same way that we should be accountable for defining and maintaining our own strong, relevant and useful reports, we should also be mindful of who we should invite to our meetings. Only those responsible for contributing to the success of the key metrics that will be discussed in the meeting, and those who may have valuable input on how to improve it should actually attend the meeting.

So to get the most productive minutes from your team, only deliver the data that matters most to them and only invite those whose tasks will be affected. Team members who are truly data-driven make a habit of interpreting report results, and may use them to test various campaigns, which in turn makes meeting conversations more knowledgeable and action-driven.

Encourage Collaborative Brainstorming

Once you have identified what the purpose of the meeting is by consulting with your objective-linked KPIs, and decided on who needs to join the meeting, you must actually ensure that the meeting is as effective as possible.

In order to get the best collaborative results from teams, you must make the meeting as conducive to creative idea flow and communication as possible. When a meeting is called to brainstorm new strategies; be careful, sometimes dominant personalities have the unfortunate ability to takeover. It’s essential that teams make the most of their time and talent by finding methods to thoughtfully generate ideas.

It’s not easy to plan the perfect campaign. Great teams know we need to collaborate, bounce ideas around, test, and repeat. By measuring past performance and even employing predictive analytics capabilities, we are able to forecast outcomes to help us develop our ideas. By establishing data as the basis for thought generation, teams are enabled to develop ideas on more than just their intuition alone.

So, to make sure teams have the ability to collaborate, find the method that works best for them whether it is brain writing, more traditional brainstorming, or what have you, just be sure they have the data needed to be able to thoughtfully generate ideas.

Don’t play the blame game

What’s even less productive than counting the ceiling tiles while a colleague rambles on and on with no end based on pure opinion? When an underperforming indicator raises serious red flags and suddenly upper management is looking for someone to blame.

Have the team collaborate around the data before calling a meeting to ask why certain metrics aren’t meeting their objectives. Analysts and marketers should be able to engage in conversation around the data in a productive, time conscious fashion in order to understand what they must analyse to understand what went wrong so that they can go into a meeting with the information they need to answer those tricky questions.

Various roles not only have the opportunity to converse before a meeting is called, they can do it in a fashion that is less interruptive and more convenient for them. And once the meeting is in place, they are able to go in with options, rather than enduring a purely uncomfortable situation. This level of transparency allows us to learn from our past actions and make better future decisions.

Meet around data or the meeting room?

If meetings had no value, we wouldn’t have them, but there is no denying that meetings hold some benefit. So to optimize the time spent in the meeting room, be sure to always bring your data with you. Not only can performance dashboards help your team organize your metrics to figure out which indicators are helping you reach your objectives to give you a clear vision of your performance, they also provide a guide for analysis and and can help promote transparency, creativity and data-backed discussion to help you make the most beneficial decisions in your meetings.

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Holly McKendry

Sweetspot Marketing Director. Wakeboarder & travel enthusiast. Communication Studies graduate of Texas State University, San Marcos.

Add a comment


Really valuable contribution to a never ending debate… Just another nice resource (which I try to use as much as possible):


Published on , 3:03 pm   

Sergio Maldonado

Great post, Holly! Indeed, meetings are often an easy way to spread the burden of bad results or an attempt to compensate for the absence of clear goals. KPI-driven collaboration makes much more sense in highly competitive scenarios where every minute counts.

Published on , 8:02 pm   

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