Many remote teams need to face the truth – they’re probably holding too many unnecessary meetings.
Excessive meetings are a productivity black hole. The more time you spend preparing for, managing, and attending a large number of meetings without action items, the less time you have in the workday to actually work.
The answer to this problem seems obvious – just have fewer meetings. But how do you know which meetings to keep and which ones are a waste of time?
We’ll show you in this guide, with tips on how to reduce the number of meetings while keeping your productive meetings.
How many meetings are too many?
The number of meetings your company should have depends on your projects and needs. When you’re getting ready to launch an important initiative, you may need more meetings than usual. But there are some ways to tell if you need to cut back on meetings overall.
First, more managers and employees are saying many meetings are unproductive, unnecessary, and disruptive of workflow. Whereas a few years ago scheduling meetings on a whim was acceptable, now your team members likely expect a more thoughtful and deliberate approach.
Research confirms this — when just one no-meeting day per week is introduced, employee-satisfaction indicators such as autonomy, communication, and engagement show improvement.
So now is the time to cut out any meetings you don’t need. And for those you do need, make sure they come with a clear agenda and purpose.
Now let’s look at some common signs you’re having too many unproductive meetings.
4 signs you need fewer meetings
When you’re having too many meetings, employees struggle to produce great work. While remote work project management relies a lot on virtual meetings to make up for the lack of in-person contact, too many of them lead to a waste of time.
If you’re wondering if you’re having too many meetings, here are some signs to watch for:
❌ Decline in employee productivity
If you notice a drop in employee productivity, don’t immediately think people are slacking off or being lazy. Too many unproductive meetings lead to unproductive teams because the amount of time leftover for deep work declines and morale goes down.
❌ No solid meeting agendas
When done right, meetings are an opportunity to check in, share ideas, collaborate, and make important decisions. Effective meetings have one thing in common – they all have a clear meeting agenda. Meeting agendas are roadmaps that help the meeting organizer keep the meeting on track.
Ask yourself: Are you having a lot of ad hoc meetings with no agendas? Are you calling in the whole team to discuss items that could have been a Slack message or an email?
❌ Meetings that lead to no decisions or action items
Meetings that end with no decisions, action items, or next steps are unproductive meetings. Remember: The point of a meeting isn’t just to talk. It’s to decide on a course of action that will help you achieve goals.
This doesn’t mean you should never hold an all-hands meeting to communicate important information. Instead, you’ll want to limit those types of meetings and focus on those that lead to decision-making.
❌ Overwhelmed and bored meeting attendees
Meetings are collaborative. If your meetings are often lopsided in participation, examine why that’s happening. The most common cause is a meeting that could have been an asynchronous update instead of a live conversation that pulls people away from their work.
8 tested and effective steps to fewer meetings
Let’s say you and your team recognize some warning signs we described above. How can you reduce your meeting count while communicating with your team, tracking milestones, and making the decisions necessary to achieve goals?
Don’t worry — where there's a will, there’s a way! Follow these tips and you’ll not only reduce your number of meetings but also take your meeting culture to the next level.
1. Always have a meeting agenda (with a strong purpose!)
Whether you’re scheduling a project kick-off or a daily standup meeting, you need a meeting agenda. If you’re struggling to communicate the purpose of the meeting, that’s a sign you can cut that meeting from the schedule — make it a Slack message or a status update in a project management tool instead.
A meeting agenda should have a stated meeting purpose and specific discussion topics.
Vowel helps teams draft good agendas by including meeting agenda templates within video conferencing software. That means when it’s time to send your agenda, you send it with your meeting invite automatically.
2. Get better at asynchronous communication
This one never gets old: Your meeting could have been an email or instant message.
What everyone is really talking about when they say this is asynchronous communication, which is the practice of using emails, Slack messages, and project management software to communicate information.
A common mistake is thinking that asynchronous vs. synchronous communication is an either-or choice. In reality, asynchronous and synchronous modes of communication should facilitate each other.
With Vowel, you can use recordings and transcripts to solicit feedback from stakeholders without a follow-up meeting. Team members or other stakeholders can give you feedback on certain decisions and action items by sending messages based on the recordings.
3. Establish meeting-free days
Here’s a quick way to reduce meetings – stop having them one day every week. On no meetings days, employees are free to focus on deep work with no distractions.
4. Review previous meetings instead of scheduling new ones
If you’re scheduling meetings to review previous action items without generating new ones, you may be able to cancel the meeting. Instead, consider reviewing previous meetings to check if agenda items were discussed thoroughly before committing to a follow-up meeting.
Heads up: Vowel records and transcribes meetings with timestamps, which turns all your meetings into a searchable knowledge base.
While recurring meetings and status updates might be unavoidable, Vowel at least groups all your recurring meetings together so you can review them in one place. If it turns out those meetings aren’t productive, cancel them.
5. Reduce meeting time
When you schedule a meeting, it’s common to schedule it for a set 30 minutes or an hour. But what if you didn’t? If you discuss all agenda items and assign all action items before the meeting is set to end, just end the meeting. Use agenda timers to keep things on track.
6. Invite only necessary people
Check your attendee list before you send out meeting invites. Does everyone really need to be there?
Think about how each person can contribute to the discussion, and how their expertise will lead to productive decision-making. If you don’t think someone can contribute, they don’t need to attend the meeting.
7. Make it okay to skip meetings
Most people feel that if they’ve been invited to a meeting, they’re required to attend. Instead, empower your team members to say no to a meeting if they’re too busy or they know there’s no reason for them to be there.
With Vowel, meeting recaps happen automatically when you record your meetings. You can also bookmark the most important bits from the transcript, send notes, and make short clips of the most crucial moments.
8. Reduce pre-meeting time
Pre-meeting chat — the small talk that happens before the meeting really starts — can add up more than you think.
Reducing pre-meeting chat is a job for your meeting agenda. When you send a meeting agenda with your meeting invite, everyone will know how the meeting should begin — and the result will be a more concise, productive meeting.
Have fewer, more valuable meetings
Some productivity experts have gone all-out against the concept of having meetings at all. We wouldn’t go that far: meetings are a necessary way to connect, communicate, and collaborate in real-time, especially for distributed and remote teams.
But you still need to be thoughtful about how many meetings you’re having. Too much time spent talking is not enough time spent working.
Vowel can help you reduce your meetings while boosting their value. Built-in recording, transcripts, agendas, and collaborative notes can transform your meetings into a searchable and shareable knowledge base. Sign up now for free!