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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 23 June 2018

If meaningless meetings bore you to sleep you are not alone

In a new study, nearly a third of respondents globally said they had dozed off in a meeting before

A new study shows how many workers feel business meetings are tedious and unproductive. (Getty Images)
A new study shows how many workers feel business meetings are tedious and unproductive. (Getty Images)

If you believe that an endless routine of business meetings do little to further a company's cause other than providing stressed staff the chance for a nap, you would not be alone.

In a global study by Barco ClickShare surveyed 2,250 senior business professionals from companies in the UAE, UK, US, Germany, and France,

Nearly a third of respondents globally said they found less than half of their meetings to be useful, while 30 per cent also said they had dozed off in a meeting before. The UAE, in fact, led the way in the asleep-in-meeting stakes, with nearly half (45 per cent) of all UAE respondents saying they had fallen asleep in meetings.

A further scientific experiment was also carried out with a small number of senior business executives, using EEG brain mapping technology to test their psychological responses to common meeting room scenarios.

The results highlight a range of issues that lead to disengagement, distraction and irritation for employees around the world. Simple factors such as technology issues, the presence of food, seating arrangements and lack of engaging content were shown to have a significant negative impact on the effectiveness of meetings.

“Once a meeting is underway, it’s reasonable to assume that engagement levels are governed by the quality of the speaker," says Lieven Bertier, the head of go to market strategy and services meeting experience at Barco. "However, our research identified that the success of a meeting is determined by a variety of factors ... including having the right technology at the beginning of the meeting to ensure a seamless flow of information, controlling the meeting room environment such as the serving of food, meeting room layout, and disturbances caused by lateness and work device usage.

"If a business prepares for these eventualities in the right way the probability of a positive outcome is increased, whether this is for an internal company meeting or a presentation to clients and new business prospects.”

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The study found that checking emails and social media during meetings was also extremely common and another indication of disengagement and distraction. In the UAE, over 80 per cent of respondents said they regularly checked emails during meetings, while close to 30 per cent access social media. This compares to 70 per cent and 37 per cent, respectively, in the UK.

Of the factors that impact engagement in meetings, technology was identified as one of the most influencial. Some 67 per cent of global respondents are regularly irritated by tech going wrong in meetings, with 4 in 10 feeling that their engagement would be affected by a failure in technology. Conversely, technology being correctly harnessed can improve engagement and productivity: 72 per cent of respondents stated that the use of multimedia content in a presentation makes them feel more engaged.

“Presenters must ensure that the technology works and the room is set-up correctly for the audience," says Dr Peter Collett, a behavioural psychologist who contributed to the research. "Starting on time and reducing interruptions will greatly increase success but using multimedia and injecting personality will ensure a great experience for all.”

There was a noticeable difference in comparisons between countries. German business people were the least affected by tech issues in meetings, whereas 55 per cent of UAE-based respondents reported losing focus in meetings due to tech issues. The UK had a high propensity for tech issues also, with 48 per cent reporting disengagement because of tech failure.

In addition, the study exposed the prominent role that food plays in engagement levels in meetings. Well over half of respondents admitted to attending meetings purely for the free food. While brain mapping showed that mood of attendees is enhanced by the presence of food, almost a third of business people surveyed said they were distracted by food in business meetings.