Over the last decade, our abilities to measure, report upon, and optimise business processes have grown exponentially. We are now able to review, with granularity, the performance of different initiatives, campaigns, and projects, in ways that we would never have dreamed of.
With this ability, the majority of our business processes are placed underneath a microscope and examined rigorously, to help find the optimal ways of doing things, and to help increase profits and reduce costs. In light of this, research conducted by MIT Sloan Management Review found that the way business performance is measured is “more data-driven, more flexible, more continuous, and more development-oriented” and “emphasizes technology-enabled, continuous improvement.”1
Yet, for many, meetings remain unexamined. Instead they are viewed as a necessary evil, as something that leaders simply must endure, and their performance passes by without acknowledgement, let alone evaluation. This is madness, as a staggering 79% consider their meetings to be unproductive.2 For businesses to thrive in our increasingly challenging world, this needs to change, and meeting feedback is the key.
In this article, we will explore the concept of meeting feedback, and it's role, and the ways you can collect and make use of feedback to take the first step towards optimising your meetings.
Meetings are an executive's most powerful leadership instrument, in which ideas and knowledge are shared, and projects and initiatives are driven forward.
In this context, meeting feedback is a magnifying glass. It allows leaders to understand where their meetings are performing well, and where improvements can be made. Meeting feedback delivers the level of granularity that is required to understand where cracks might be appearing, or where a change of approach might be necessary.
In essence, meeting feedback is the mechanism by which leaders begin to acknowledge the performance of their meetings, which has otherwise slid unnoticed. But what exactly is it?
In an ideal world, this should be delivered anonymously, so that attendees feel able to share their thoughts as honestly as possible. When collected correctly, meeting feedback should give a crystal clear, detailed view of how it is to attend one of your meetings.
Now, this might sound a little intimidating - especially for organisations who aren't used to evaluating the performance of their meetings. Yet, it is absolutely essential to ending the meeting madness in your organisation, and meeting feedback is the first bold step on the road to meeting productivity.
Now that we know what meeting feedback is, why should you care?
Collecting meeting feedback is the only way to begin improving the productivity of your meetings. Without feedback, a leader could assume that their meetings are performing, when in reality they are falling short - relying on mere eyesight when really, magnification is needed. By collecting feedback from your meeting attendees, you start to build a true picture of how your meetings are performing, rather than deferring to your own perception of meetings, which is likely to be at least somewhat flawed.
Meeting feedback gives you the picture of how things are today, which you can then assess and compare with how you want things to be in the future. By doing this, you identify the gaps that need filling, or the issues that need addressing, in order for you to reach the destination that you have in mind - which is likely to be 'better' (or 'more productive') meetings, as a means of achieving enhanced decision-making, and ultimately, business performance.
Let's consider how to collect meeting feedback correctly.
As we've already outlined, meeting feedback should be collected anonymously, but the process should also be explained clearly to your meeting attendees before they give their thoughts. The idea of this process is to present constructive, actionable feedback that can help your teams to fulfil their roles more effectively.
In order to do this, your meeting feedback should be collected with two precepts in mind:
In order for your meeting feedback to be as powerful as possible, it is vital that you collect it regularly. This means that you should circulate feedback forms or questionnaires following every meeting, and then record responses in a clear way. Over a relatively short amount of time, you will harvest a bank of data that allows the true picture to emerge. Think of this as placing your magnifying glass slightly further from the subject in order to see it more clearly.
Secondly, you must collect your meeting feedback in a structured way. This means investing some time in generating questions that will give you a true check on the pulse of your meetings, and using the same questions every time. After all, if you change the questions you ask regularly, the bank of data that you build will be spread more thinly, which makes deduction more challenging.
Once you have a clear idea of the questions you want to ask, and have established the cadence to which meeting feedback will be collected, you need to decide the mechanism that you will use to survey the opinions of your meeting attendees.
For example, will you use physical forms? Probably not, as this seems somewhat archaic and will be difficult to truly preserve anonymity. Therefore, will you use an online solution? There are plenty of online survey tools that will fulfil this function, you just need to be sure that the aforementioned precepts of meeting feedback can be adhered to.
It also might be a good idea to involve an expert, external opinion in this process, to avoid relying on your organisation’s own echo chamber.
At Sherpany, we discovered that by automatically asking a set of simple questions to each attendee at the end of each recurring meeting was an effective means of embedding meeting feedback into the meeting process.
We firmly believe that these questions will help add value to the way other organisations collect feedback, and have created our free Meeting Assessment.
Now that you have started collecting meeting feedback from attendees, what do you do with it?
Store data effectively
First and foremost, you need to ensure that the data collected is stored in a way that is easy to find, aggregate, and interpret. Collecting data is useless if it can’t be easily accessed, viewed, and analysed.
Review feedback regularly
Secondly, you need to be sure to review feedback as it is collected, on a meeting-by-meeting basis. This will help you to determine the trend among your meetings - are they improving? Deteriorating? Do you need to take immediate action if the results are extreme or alarming? Meeting feedback shouldn't be left for 'some date in the future' to review.
Ultimately, you want to measure your meeting feedback against your objectives or goals for meetings. In most cases, this will be productivity. Do your meetings achieve what they set out to do, and are they run in a way that is optimal? Nobody likes sitting through meetings that achieve little (if nothing!) and you want to be sure to measure the feedback collected against the yardstick that you set out for your meetings.
Action, action, action
Where is the sense in collecting, interpreting, and storing feedback if you aren't going to do something with it? It is vital that you address any issues raised in a prompt fashion, and review future feedback to see if the problems have been solved in the eyes of your attendees or if you need to do more.
Once you improve the state of affairs with respect to your meetings (or perhaps you find that you were doing well to begin with) it is tempting to stop, to rest on your laurels, and to take your foot off of the gas. This is a fundamental mistake. Just because you have received positive feedback on your meetings, and reached your destination of productive meetings, this doesn't mean that you will stay there. It is important to continue assessing your meetings, and meeting feedback is the best way to do this.
Therefore, meeting feedback plays a vital role in improving the productivity of your meetings, which are pivotal to organisational success. Feedback gives a clear picture of the reality of your meetings, and magnifies the areas that require your attention.
All too often meetings fall by the wayside when we evaluate company performance, and this trend can sustain no longer. It is essential that you begin collecting meeting feedback today, so that you can start improving your meetings tomorrow. Relying on the untrained eye, when magnification is needed, is a recipe for failure.
If you want to know more about collecting feedback, and ways to magnify the performance of your meetings, try our free Meeting Assessment.
1. ‘Performance Management’s Digital Shift’, M. Schrage, D. Kiron, B. Hancock, and R. Breschi, MIT Sloan Management Review, 2019.
2. ‘Why Your Meetings Stink - and What to Do About It’, S. Rogelberg, HBR, 2019.