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8 Common meeting pitfalls and how to avoid them
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8 Common meeting pitfalls and how to avoid them

Discover why your meetings might lack engagement or effectiveness—and improve team productivity and morale

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Strong teams recognize when their meetings aren't effective. Just take a look at project management tool, Asana. After realizing meetings were more time-consuming than they were productive, the company decided to change its meeting culture. They declared "meeting doomsday" and purged their calendars of all meetings for 48 hours to reevaluate the ones worth keeping.*

For meetings to be productive, everyone needs to be awake, alert, and actively involved. But sometimes, especially if you're having back-to-back meetings, it's difficult to keep people engaged. That's why leaders of highly collaborative teams need to know what makes meetings boring–and how to overcome them–to get people to do their best work. 

Discover the top eight reasons why meetings lose their momentum, and steps you can take to hold better meetings. Then, learn how Switchboard can make meetings more effective by letting you cancel the bad ones. 

Want more engaging meetings?

Switchboard combines all your people, tools, and browsers in an interactive canvas—turning meetings into multiplayer experiences.

Learn more

What makes a bad meeting? 

A bad meeting fails to make efficient use of time, doesn't achieve its objectives, and leaves participants feeling that their time could have been better spent elsewhere. Since employees consider half of all meetings as time wasted, too many meetings can contribute to a significant drop in productivity and morale. 

Let's take a look at some reasons meetings become ineffective

1. It's too long

Long meeting times can drain energy and diminish productivity, especially if they lack focus and clear objectives. For product teams, a meeting that drags on without clear progress can stifle creativity and delay decision-making on important product features or bug fixes. For instance, the team could spend hours discussing potential features without making any concrete decisions, wasting valuable time that could be spent on development or testing.

This means it's important to reject meetings that don't have a clear agenda and have shorter meetings. According to Tim Green, COO at TeamUp, "Anything beyond an hour tends to lead to diminishing returns."

Plus, just because your calendar might automatically book a 30-minute meeting slot, doesn't mean you need to keep it. Consider checking features like Google Speedy Meetings that book meetings in 25-minute or 50-minute time slots. This lets you give people some buffer time and be more proactive about avoiding unproductive meetings

2. You're having too many 

Too many meetings can overwhelm team members, leaving them with little time to pay attention to meaningful focus work. Without time to enter your flow state and truly dive into the task at hand, you can be more likely to experience burnout from context-switching and meeting fatigue. This means the value of each virtual meeting you do have is likely to diminish, and your team might find themselves spending more time discussing work rather than doing it. 

For instance, if a product team holds multiple status update meetings in a week without substantial progress between them, the meetings can become redundant and counterproductive. This can lead to frustration among team members, as they feel their time could be better spent on development tasks. 

If you're inspired by Asana's "meeting doomsday" approach, this would be the time to apply it. Start by getting rid of all your recurring or back-to-back meetings to identify the bad ones. If you can get by without them, go ahead and cancel them. 

3. No visual elements 

The absence of something to look at in meetings can make it harder for everyone to get on the same page, especially for teams dealing with complex concepts and projects. Plus, it's harder to appeal to multiple learning styles, which can negatively impact engagement and output. 

Visual aids like images, prototypes, diagrams, and roadmaps can facilitate better comprehension and discussion. Without these, meetings can become abstract and less effective. For example, imagine a product team discussing the user interface of a new app during a meeting. Without any visual aids, the team's conversation might revolve around vague descriptions of layout and color schemes, leading to misunderstandings and a lack of concrete decisions.

Pro tip: Create a dedicated project room in Switchboard and lay out your favorite tools, brainstorm with sticky notes, or get creative with virtual whiteboards—in real time and on your own time.
Virtual whiteboard, Figma, and Google Docs in a Switchboard room
Switchboard lets you combine all the visual elements you need to keep people engaged and aligned. Source: Switchboard

4. Lacks knowledge-sharing opportunities

Running effective meetings means they should serve as platforms to exchange knowledge and foster problem-solving. A bad meeting often lacks these opportunities, making it a one-way street where information is merely stated but not exchanged—and too often, a waste of time.

For product teams, this can be particularly detrimental. If a meeting doesn't allow for cross-pollination of ideas, such as when discussing emerging technology trends relevant to the product, it misses the chance to harness collective team expertise. This can keep you from engaging in improvement and innovation. 

Encouraging your team to share insights, ideas, and resources before the meeting can get everyone aligned and ready to contribute when it's time to meet. If you're using Switchboard, you can populate your room with links, sources, and notes so it's easy to pick up where you left off. With visibility into important meeting materials before, during, and after the meeting, you can work smarter without worrying about context—and skip the meeting altogether. 

Multiple browsers and apps open in Switchboard
Switchboard makes it easy to share important information in rooms that save your work—regardless if you're meeting in real time. Source: Switchboard

5. Doesn't move projects forward

One of the key indicators of a bad meeting is failing to advance the project. If discussions consistently fail to translate into tangible steps or decisions, it reveals a need for clearer objectives, better planning, and a focus on outcomes.

In the context of product teams, meetings should result in decisions, action items, or clearer direction. If team members leave the meeting without understanding the next steps or how the discussion affects their work, the meeting has failed its purpose. For instance, a meeting intended to finalize feature sets for the next release that ends without clear decisions can cause delays and confusion, affecting the product's time-to-market.

"It’s natural for discussions to evolve," says Green. "But when we’re spending more time on tangential issues than on the meeting’s objectives, it’s a red flag. To address this, I gently steer the conversation back on track, reminding everyone of the agenda and the goals we’re there to achieve." 

6. Only a few people talk 

When only a few people dominate team meetings, it can limit diverse input and lower engagement. That's because it can discourage other team members from sharing valuable insights or feedback. For example, in a product engineering meeting, if only senior engineers speak and contributions from junior team members are overlooked, the product could miss out on innovative features or critical usability feedback.

According to Green, "If I notice some team members are silent or seem distracted, it’s usually a sign the meeting isn’t providing value to them. In such cases, I make it a point to ask for their input directly or check if they have any concerns that need to be addressed." 

Pro tip: Switchboard enables everyone on your team to share, beyond talking. Add and interact with content without taking turns sharing screens—and encourage true multiplayer collaboration.

7. There's no meeting follow up 

Without proper follow up, action items and decisions made during the meeting might not be implemented. This can cause bottlenecks and confusion around responsibilities. For a design team, failing to follow up could mean missing critical prototyping deadlines or forgetting to address important feedback loops with stakeholders. 

On top of keeping your meeting agenda and materials in a unified place everyone can access, it's important to clearly outline next steps and assign tasks. This can be accomplished using a project management tool like ClickUp or Asana. 

"I also make it a point to review previous meeting minutes to ensure all action items have been addressed," says Green. "This not only keeps everyone accountable but also provides a sense of continuity and progress."  

If you're using Switchboard, you can keep your project management tool, meeting agenda, meeting notes, and action items in a dedicated room organized by project. This helps eliminate prep time and makes it easier to follow up—so the meetings you do have can be more productive. 

Sticky notes and a project proposal in a Switchboard room
Switchboard makes it easy to stay organized and consistent across meetings and projects. Source: Switchboard

8. A meeting wasn’t necessary

Not every discussion warrants a meeting. For example, you don't need to meet in real time for things like: 

  • Status updates
  • Non-urgent work 
  • Collecting feedback
  • Routine check-ins

For product teams, unnecessary meetings can divert precious time away from design, development, and testing. An example of this could be a meeting called to discuss minor bug fixes that could have been addressed through a shared document.

By creating an async work culture, you can conserve time and bandwidth for more crucial collaborative work that benefits from synchronous communication. Things like brainstorming and sharing sensitive or urgent communication fall under this category. 

How to have better meetings 

Now that you know the signs of a bad meeting, let's dive into some ways you can host effective meetings that actually move projects forward. 

  • Make the agenda available ahead of time. Distribute the meeting agenda well in advance to give participants time to prepare. People can come prepared with ideas, questions, and feedback related to the agenda items, which enhances the quality of the discussion and makes sure there's a clear purpose. 
  • Limit distractions. This can involve turning off notifications, closing unrelated applications, or using a Switchboard room to reduce context-switching by keeping everything in one place.
  • Encourage everyone to contribute. Encourage an inclusive environment where all team members can participate. Platforms like Switchboard let you organize docs and files on an expansive canvas, where everyone can click, scroll, and type.
  • End the meeting on a positive note. Finishing meetings on a positive note can boost team morale and leave members feeling accomplished and motivated. This could involve acknowledging the progress made, recognizing individual contributions, or highlighting next steps in a positive light.
  • Or, cancel the meeting. As mentioned, you don't need to schedule a meeting just because it's routine. Here's a handy framework you can use to know when to cancel your next meeting: 
    • Share async—like docs, slides, or code
    • Review async—add comments or make video walkthroughs
    • Discuss and decide async or together—either converse in comments or meet to talk as a group

Put a stop to boring meetings and improve the bad ones

If we've learned anything from Asana's approach to purging bad meetings, it's that there are many ways to share information and collaborate that truly benefit people and productivity—without defaulting to meetings.  

You can't expect to host an engaging meeting if people aren't awake, alert, and actively involved. Not to mention overstuffing their calendars with back-to-back meetings that leave little to no room for meaningful focus work. That's why leaders need to know the reasons behind boring meetings–and how to overcome them–to get people to do their best. Some reasons being: Meetings are too long, there isn't any visual stimulus, and there's no opportunity for knowledge sharing. 

To get people truly interested and motivated, it helps to keep everything you need for stellar project work in one place. Switchboard lets you bring your own tools, files, and apps together so everyone can work in context—in real time and on their own time. 

Want more engaging meetings?

Switchboard combines all your people, tools, and browsers in an interactive canvas—turning meetings into multiplayer experiences.

Learn more

*Asana meeting doomsday 

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Want more engaging meetings?

Switchboard combines all your people, tools, and browsers in an interactive canvas—turning meetings into multiplayer experiences.