A ChatGPT-style AI assistant, developed by Microsoft called CoPilot is now available which summarises meetings for anyone who chooses not to attend. Could this be an end to attending meetings? All those hours siting in meetings summarised nicely for you in a document that it may take 5 minutes to read. Very tempting. Clearly it will be worrying for any meeting organiser if a one-hour meeting can be summarised into half a page!
This technology may prove revolutionary however it is not the lack of state-of-the-art technology that is the issue right now. Meetings still provide one of the biggest obstacles for organisations – too many, too disorganised, too many attendees, too often, I could go on. Technology can help, but let’s consider three things some employers have done that might be considered by organisations to improve their meetings culture.
Putting a cost against your meetings. If you think about it, we often struggle to get sign off on small purchases or stationery orders, yet no one stops us from engaging eight people in a one-hour meeting, essentially a full day’s cost of one employee. Shopify, the e-commerce company recognised this and have launched the meeting cost calculator, to remind people of the value of their people and the cost to having them all in a room. They estimated the average meeting cost over $1,400. Letting attendees see the value of the meeting and the cost of people’s time made people think twice about the number of attendees and the need for the meeting.
Cancel recurring meeting: When employees went back to work in 2023, one company decided to cancel all their recurring meetings, with a rule that none of these could be put back in place as a recurring meeting for at least two weeks. They looked at the data a few months later and saw that over 40% of meeting time had decreased in calendars. Often managers are too close to things, however if the meetings are suddenly gone, it gives them pause and time to reflect on the meetings merits and value. From an employee point of view recurring meetings generally are the ones that have become routine and mundane so changing it up is a welcome relief.
Justify the meeting: Many organisations have realised that the mantra “all meetings need an agenda to be productive” is not working. An agenda may give you structure but does not necessarily make the meeting effective. It’s much better to have the meeting organiser send out a meeting note in advance highlighting the purpose of the meeting and the decisions that need to be taken. This helps employees consider the meeting in advance and may make them realise that they do not need to attend the meeting at all. Having a meeting organiser think more about the meeting objectives for even just a few minutes can elevate the meeting experience and remind them that they are a steward of other people’s time.
While an A.I. tool used to summarise meetings may seem like an excellent idea, it once again misses some of the key points of a good meeting, relationship building, learning and connecting. The worry is that so many meetings have become formulaic and miss these vital touchpoints that the A.I. summary may be a better idea than attending in the first place, a grim prospect.