On December 12, 2012, 16,972 participants took part in the largest telephone conference in history. According to Guinnessworldrecords.com, “All the participants were on the call concurrently for at least 10 seconds.” The Guinness World Record does not say what they talked about, but the sheer number of participants could leave anyone with questions about whether this was a productive meeting.
While it’s not every day that almost 17,000 people take part in a telephone conference or any meeting for that matter, we came across other interesting meeting statistics that you might find surprising.
This article presents some interesting meeting statistics. We look at the amount of time spent in meetings, unproductive meetings and their cost, how workers perceive meetings, and how meeting statistics have changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In this article:
- Some Quick Meeting Statistics
- Time Spent Preparing For Meetings
- Time Spent In Meetings
- Do People Really Hate Meetings?
- Why People Hate Meetings
- What Types Of Meetings Do People Prefer?
- The Effect Of The Pandemic And Lockdowns On Meeting Statistics
- Meetings Will Stay But Can Be Improved
Some Quick Meeting Statistics
To give you an idea of what the meeting landscape looks like at a glance, here are some numbers produced by Doodle (the online calendar tool) from an analysis of interview data from 6,500 professionals from Germany, the United Kingdom, and the US. Data was also collected from 19 million meetings organized using Doodle.
- Professionals attend two hours of pointless meetings per week, gobbling $541bn worth of resources.
- Every year, 24 billion hours will be wasted in pointless meetings.
- 37% percent of employees believe that their organization’s most significant cost is unnecessary meetings.
- Most professionals believe that mornings are the best time to hold meetings, especially between 8 am and 12 pm.
- 76% of employees would rather be in a face-to-face meeting than attend a video call.
How Many Meetings Do We Actually Hold Every Day?
Whether you find yourself in a meeting that you think is helpful or you are the unlucky one in one of those ineffective meetings, at least another 11 million people will walk in your shoes in the United States within the same day.
If you find 11 million meetings a day too much, maybe you haven’t seen an article published by LucidMeetings.com that puts the number of meetings happening in America at 55 million daily. LucidMeetings.com is in the business of assisting companies in running better meetings, whether they are video conferencing or face-to-face.
Elise Keith, the co-founder and CEO of LucidMeetings.com, doubts the widely circulated figure of 11 million daily meetings in the US, noting “these numbers are wrong.” But how does she know? “I know this because I spent a good portion of the past few years accruing all this meeting data,” she says.
Keith argues that the 11 million meetings a day statistic cannot be correct because it has been quoted since 1975, starting with Michael Doyle and David Strauss in their book, How to Make Meetings Work!
By 1996, Doyle was quoting a figure of 25 million. Keith uses these numbers to argue that if the growth in the number of meetings was linear, the number of meetings today could be estimated at over 55 million a day.
The figure of 55 million is quoted in a more recent article by Peter High, a contributor to Forbes.com. But where does High’s 55 million come from? The figure is quoted in an interview by Steven Rogelberg, Professor of Management at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and author of The Surprising Science Of Meetings: How You Can Lead Your Team To Peak Performance.
Whether you want to go with the figure of 11 million or 55 million meetings a day, it’s clear that many meetings are held every day in the US.
Time Spent Preparing For Meetings
Even though most of the attention is paid to the amount of time taken by face-to-face meetings, conference calls, or video calls, little time has been devoted to studying the time spent preparing for meetings.
In an article published by Inc.com, Ineffective Meetings Cost Companies Up to $283 Billion a Year, John White reports that “most people spend almost 12 hours of their 40-hour workweek preparing for and attending meetings.”
Time Spent In Meetings
Michael Mankins, Chris Brahm, and Greg Caimi note that while many companies are clear about how they manage human capital, new investments, and delegation of authority, “an organization’s time, in contrast, goes largely unmanaged.”
Mankins and others argue that “time devoted to internal meetings detracts from time spent with customers,” and added “organizations become bloated, bureaucratic, and slow, and their financial performance suffers. Employees spend [more time] away from their friends and families.”
But how much time do team members spend in meetings?
Mankins and colleagues report that around 15 percent of an organization’s time is spent in meetings. This percentage has been increasing every year, starting in 2008. The same authors estimate that senior executives spend more than two days a week in meetings.
The idea that executives spend even more time in meetings is supported by the online career platform, TheMuse.com, in an article titled How Much Time Do We Spend in Meetings? The article says that middle managers can spend up to 35 percent of their time in meetings, and top managers up to 50 percent.
Otter.ai, the provider of technologies and products that help teams to convert voice conversations into a written format, reports that “in 2020, 36% of the meetings’ duration was evaluated to be 30 minutes, while only 20% of meetings ran for one hour.” The same organization also reports that meetings lasting 15 minutes were the second most common, constituting 31% of meetings.
The Muse forecasts that the time we spend in meetings per year is likely to keep going up.
Do People Really Hate Meetings?
Mankins and colleagues provide some statistics that could give us an idea of the degree to which people hate meetings. They report that in most of the organizations they examined, multitasking during meetings was noted. For every 30 minutes of meeting time, 22 percent of survey respondents indicated that they sent an average of three or more emails during the meeting.
According to the IT service management company CBTS (Cincinnati Bell Technology Solutions), the proportion of people who multitask while on mute in conference calls is 74 percent.
What do the people who multitask during meetings do? An infographic produced by CBTS provides an overview of what people who multitask during meetings do.
Hating Meeting In Public But Loving Them In Private
If 74 percent of people attending organized meetings end up doing other things like messaging or eating lunch during meetings, does it mean that people hate meetings? From their study titled The Science and Fiction of Meetings, Steven Rogelberg, Cliff Scott, and John Kello attempt to provide the answer.
Rogelberg and colleagues report that even though respondents to surveys publicly say that they hate meetings, when privately asked what they think about meetings, “the majority of the individuals in the ‘complainer group’ actually admitted that they did not feel as negatively as they indicated publicly.”
Rogelberg and his colleagues point out that when respondents were asked about meetings in general, from a productivity point of view, responses were mostly positive. They say that 17 percent called meetings good to excellent, 42% percent said they were good, 25 percent were neutral, while 15 percent selected the poor or worse rating.
Why People Hate Meetings
For those who hate meetings, Inc.com’s John White suggests that the main frustrations noted include meetings that are unnecessary: “many attendees complain of repetition of things that have already been said.” He adds that “meetings are necessary, but only if they are effective meetings.”
Doodle identified some leading irritants in meetings. The percentage of respondents who identify each irritant is in brackets.
From the views expressed above, it can be concluded that even though bad meetings will always exist, the idea that employees see most meetings as a waste of time may not always be accurate.
What Types Of Meetings Do People Prefer?
The provider of cloud collaboration tools, Intrado.com, provides some statistics on the types of meetings people prefer. The organization notes that “Employees most frequently attend in-person meetings, followed up by audio conferences then video conferences.” People generally seem to prefer face-to-face meetings because they are used to them.
Intrado.com reports that “the more meetings an employee attends, the more likely they are to prefer audio and video meetings (and find them productive),” as is shown by the statistics below.
Among people who attend meetings sporadically (5 meetings or less per week), 76% prefer in-person meetings, 13% audio conferences, and 11% video conferencing.
In the same group, 83% think in-person meetings are the most productive, compared to 8% and 9% who believe that audio conferencing and video conferencing are the most productive.
Among frequent meeting-goers (6 or more meetings a week), the proportion of people that prefer face-to-face meetings drops to 68%. The percentage of those who prefer audio conferencing and video conferencing meetings goes up to 20% and 12%, respectively.
In the same group, the percentage of people that say face-to-face meetings are more productive also drops to 66%. The percentage of respondents who say that they see audio conferences and video conferences as being more productive goes up to 16% and 18%, respectively.
The idea that face-to-face meetings are the most preferred is supported by the Doodle report mentioned above.
The Effect Of The Pandemic And Lockdowns On Meeting Statistics
It is possible that when 2019 came to an end, many employees had no idea how a Zoom meeting worked because such technologies have often been perceived as being only applicable for remote workers.
The coronavirus has changed perceptions because a lot of office-based work became remote work overnight as many employees found themselves forced to work from home, where connecting with other employees is limited to virtual meetings, video calls, and phone calls.
Otter.ai concludes that “the COVID-19 pandemic changed the landscape of meetings, and companies from all over the world experienced a massive influx of virtual meetings.”
According to Harvard Business School, “work-from-home employees whose days seem longer, with more meetings and emails than ever before, may find a new Harvard Business School study validating.”
The idea that employees found themselves attending more meetings during COVID-19 is supported by meeting statistics from the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER). The NBER research involved 16 large metropolitan areas in Europe, North America, and the Middle East. It concludes that:
- The number of people attending meetings went up by 14 percent or two people.
- The number of meetings attended by each individual grew 12.9 percent.
- The average meeting was 20.1 percent shorter.
The NBER study also concluded that there were “significant and durable increases in length of the average workday (+8.2 percent, or +48.5 minutes), along with short-term increases in email activity.”
Meetings Will Stay But Can Be Improved
From the statistics above, it is clear that meetings will continue to be part of organizations and their decision-making process. They can be an excellent resource for people managing people to steer organizations or departments in the direction they want.
It’s also clear that meetings will only meet their objectives if employees believe that the meetings have a clear agenda and leave them with enough time to do their work. This implies constantly evaluating your organization’s culture relating to meetings is the best way for you to determine whether the meetings save or waste resources.