Meeting Management

The benefits of a meeting assessment and the ways to conduct one

In this article we will explore the concept of meeting assessments, why they are the gateway to a new world of collaboration, and how you can successfully implement them in your company to begin improving your meetings today.

Robert Mitson
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As the old adage goes “hindsight is 20/20.” While we always want to be future-focussed, what we can learn from looking back is unimaginable. This is nothing new, we have been learning from our mistakes and successes for millenia - yet for some reason, executives often fail to do so when it comes to their leadership meetings, which is painfully clear in a recent study that found that only 56% of leaders found meetings organised by others to be productive.1

Perhaps it’s because the concept of meetings can be somewhat abstract, and for lack of tangibility, they aren’t even acknowledged, let alone examined. This is an error.

Meetings represent huge value - both in terms of what they cost organisations, but also what they can help to achieve. Indeed, the predicted costs of unproductive meetings in the US and UK alone is estimated to be almost half a trillion dollars per year.2 Meetings are, undeniably, one of an executive’s most powerful leadership tools. They foster connection, collaboration, and contribution among your people, and are the forum in which strategy is formed and decisions are made. 

The ‘meeting madness’ is a term coined by the Harvard Business Review to describe the phenomena of both too many, and unproductive, meetings.3 This condition is widespread in the corporate world, with organisations accepting the fate of their meetings to be predetermined rather than something that can be improved. They are a blindspot. 

Meeting assessments offer a 360-degree view. They help you to evaluate meeting performance, and optimise your meetings. This results in better collaboration - all in support of organisational strategy, swift decision-making, execution, and performance. In essence, a meeting assessment is a spotlight to illuminate the blindspot of meetings.

In this article we will explore the concept of meeting assessments, why they are the gateway to a new world of collaboration, and how you can successfully implement them in your company to begin improving your meetings today. 

 

Meeting assessments... meeting evaluations... meeting reviews?  

There are a number of common synonyms for the term ‘meeting assessment’, including: 

  • Meeting evaluation 
  • Meeting review, and 
  • Post-meeting survey. 

All of these concepts speak to the same end, which is a way of understanding how well your meetings perform. 

Essentially, a meeting assessment is a means of collecting, aggregating, and interpreting meeting feedback. Think of them as a ruler to measure your meeting’s performance. By conducting a meeting evaluation, you gain valuable insights into the performance of meetings, which in turn can inform changes that need to be made and areas that need to be strengthened.

A meeting assessment is a means of collecting, aggregating, and interpreting meeting feedback.

But why are meeting evaluations so crucial? 

Why is it so important to conduct meeting evaluations?

Without the ability to measure, scientists would be unable to test hypotheses and develop theories. The same is true for meetings. In the absence of accurate measurement, we are simply unable to ascertain performance, and are left feeling around in the dark. 

In the same way that illumination is synonymous with knowledge, meeting assessments should be synonymous with meeting performance and be woven into the DNA of the way your organisation conducts meetings. Without them, we don’t know where we are, and so cannot chart a clear course forwards. 

Meeting assessments are also key to avoiding making the same mistake twice. According to the Harvard Business Review, “The wisdom of learning from failure is incontrovertible. Yet organizations that do it well are extraordinarily rare.”4 Mistakes are an inevitable part of growth, however repeating mistakes numerous times is a recipe for failure in the long-term. For example, consistently failing to follow-up on tasks and decisions will undoubtedly result in poor execution. 

It is also important to question the purpose of recurring meetings. Do we simply continue to attend the same meetings because we always have? CEO of New Relic, Lew Cirne, says that “I ask myself ‘Why?’ and I encourage my managers to question their calendars, too.”

Therefore, by conducting meeting assessments after every meeting, you are sure to learn from your mistakes - and learn quickly - as well as validating the purpose of your meetings to avoid wasting time in the future. This breaks the cycle of meeting mistakes, and also means that you embody the principles of continuous improvement, which promotes agility and, ultimately, success in your meetings. 

 

How to conduct a meeting assessment: Post-meeting survey questions

The simplest way to conduct a meeting assessment is to ask a structured set of post-meeting questions, and then to aggregate the responses. 

By doing this, you can build a true picture of the reality of your meeting. After all, one person’s opinion might not be enough to draw inference from, but the opinions of all participants en masse should be listened to. 

An effective way of conducting a meeting assessment is to provide a series of yes/no questions that examine different aspects of your meeting.

At Sherpany, we use the following questions to conduct a meeting evaluation: 

  • Did the agenda have clear goals?
  • Was the material put together well?
  • Was everybody well prepared?
  • Were the discussions constructive?
  • Were actions and decisions agreed?
  • Were goals of the meeting accomplished?
  • Did you accomplish your goals by attending this meeting?

As with all areas of measurement, as time goes by, provided you conduct meeting assessments consistently, you will build up a bank of data that will illuminate the true story of your meetings. This will provide a powerful basis for change in the way that you hold meetings, and will help you continuously improve and optimise your organisation’s meetings. For any given meeting, the responses are then grouped together, and shared with the meeting organiser, as well as being stored in Sherpany’s meeting solution. From the results, the meeting organiser can then ascertain the areas of their meetings that are performing well, and those that need attention. 

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How to implement meeting assessments at your organisation 

Much like ground rules, meeting assessments should become a natural part of your organisation's meeting process. As made clear in our Azend® Framework, they should form the part of the meeting values that your entire company lives on a daily basis. 

Implementing meeting assessments in your organisation is actually very simple. There are five simple steps you should follow. These are: 

1. Decide which aspects of your meetings are important to evaluate

In the example previously mentioned from Sherpany, we have seven questions that help to understand how well your meetings are performing. These can of course be used to evaluate your meetings, or can be modified to match the areas of your meetings that you believe are most crucial for your organisation.

2. Create a short questionnaire that addresses these elements

‘Short’ should be the operative word here, as the longer a questionnaire is, the less likely your attendees are to complete them. For Sherpany, seven is the magic number. This gives you scope to obtain a broad view of your meetings, without the process becoming onerous for participants. To keep things even simpler, we recommend using a scale for each question, so that participants only have to rank each question rather than thinking of responses.

3. Circulate this questionnaire to all meeting attendees following each meeting

This step is simple. You can just email your questionnaire to participants once the meeting is over. Instead of doing this manually, why not try Sherpany’s free Meeting Assessment tool?

4. Aggregate the results, and take an average for each question

As with step 3, Sherpany’s Meeting Assessment does this part for you, but if you prefer to do this manually, this is as simple as taking an average of the responses to each question.

5. Interpret the results, and ensure you take key learnings forward

What use is a meeting assessment if you don’t then use the results to affect change? Based on the responses you receive, learning can be inferred, and clear actions can be taken in order to improve future meetings.

 

Meeting assessments: End the cycle of bad meetings today

As you can see, implementing meeting assessments in your organisation is really straightforward. However, this simple change has huge results, and is the means by which you can end the cycle of bad meetings in your organisation. 

By consistently assessing the performance of your meetings, you can begin to shine a light on areas of weakness in your meetings, and take concrete steps to improve them starting immediately. Over time, this will revolutionise your meetings and imbue continuous improvement throughout a process that many organisations fail to recognise, let alone optimise.

Do you want to read more about Meeting Management?

1 'The state of meetings report: Consequences of poorly organised meetings', Doodle, 2019.

2 'Stop the Meeting Madness', L. Perlow, C. Noonan Hadley, and E. Eun, HBR, 2017.

3 'Strategies for Learning from Failure', A. C. Edmondson, HBR, 2011.


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Robert Mitson
About the author
Robert is passionate about shaping and communicating value, and in his work as English Content Specialist he creates insight to help leaders across Europe to make every meeting count.