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Many of us are in meeting hell. Here are some tips to escape the virtual (or in-person) torment

Remote working video conference. A man sitting at his desk holding his head with his hands.
Tesson Andia
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A man sits at his desk during a remote working videoconference.

Meeting hell. It's a place many workers found themselves during the pandemic, spending hours in virtual meetings.

A recent survey by Microsoft (developer of the online meeting platform Teams) found the amount of time an average Teams user spent in meetings "more than tripled between February 2020 and February 2022," according to NPR.

"Some meetings are still very efficient and effective," said Cornell Wright, owner of Parker Wright Group Inc. in Stratford, Conn., a customer service consulting firm. "There's a set objective, there's things we want to accomplish, you have the right people in the meeting."

"Unfortunately, a lot of cultures have not been as diligent," Wright said. "Then it becomes nonproductive."

That's led some companies to take extreme measures. E-commerce giant Shopify recently said it was doing away with 322,000 hours of meetings in an effort to free up time and boost productivity.

Keys to making a meeting successful

Meetings — in-person and virtual — can have benefits if done correctly, Wright said. He offered some tricks to keep people out of meeting hell.

"A good meeting," Wright said, "has a number of traditional aspects that occur in both a virtual meeting as well as a traditional meeting."

Decide the meeting purpose in advance

"Determining what that purpose is will then lead you to what the design, if you will, of the meeting ought to be," he said.

Wright said it's important to think about why companies started meetings in the first place. Managers need to ask themselves: Why are we having this meeting, and who really needs to attend?

Invite the right people to the meeting

"A lot of times you move into a decision-making meeting, and you may not have the people who can make a decision sitting in the meeting," Wright said. "Well, guess what: That meeting is going to be nonproductive because you're not going to get an outcome."

Zoom meetings or virtual meetings can also suffer from too many attendees, which can hurt engagement and waste time, Wright said.

But virtual meetings can offer people who may not be as outspoken the chance to participate in the meeting via chat, he said.

The absence of a physical space can also eliminate some power dynamics of in-person meetings.

"Think about King Arthur; he had a round table because all of his knights were equal, right? I haven't been in too many corporate organizations where we had a round table," Wright said. "I think there's a reason for that. But as you look at that Zoom meeting, it does help those who are perhaps not as vocal get a chance to participate."

Lori Connecticut Public's Morning Edition host.