Op-Ed: Meetings Done Right

You may have seen a recent article in The New York Times Magazine titled "Meet is Murder." In it, Victoria Heffernan, a frequent contributor, questions the value of meetings in the modern workplace.

"They're boring. They're useless. Everyone hates them," she writes. "So why can't we stop having meetings?"

Citing theorists Paul Graham, Brian Robertson and Henry Martyn Robertson, Heffernan oscillates between offering explanations that underscore the value of meeting face-to-face and suggesting that meetings rob employees of "joy, productivity, and mental freedom." 

As though inviting readers to weigh the facts and reach their own independent conclusions, Heffernan leads with a story about employees at a Manhattan start-up infatuated with the idea of clearing their calendars of daily check-ins and enjoying long stretches of solitude and "artistic entitlement."

But the power of this example is almost immediately undermined. Heffernan writes, "Meetings must be scratching some kind of itch, if only for fellowship and a reprieve from deskbound loneliness. And what an itch: Meetings are not just considered indispensable to many professions; they are almost coextensive with them. You can make a whole career of planning, holding, and attending meetings and never dare contemplate the possibility of your being exempt."

The truth is, most meetings have an important and positive impact on workplaces across the country. Meetings that feel like a waste of time, seem useless, or are unproductive are just not done right. 

When people meet face-to-face, relationships are developed in a way that technology cannot recreate or match. The ability to look a new business opportunity in the eye and close the deal with a handshake simply cannot be replicated. According to a new survey by the Meetings Mean Business coalition, nine in ten C-suite executives affirm that face-to-face meetings improve their ability to close deals, network, and grow professionally. 

An Oxford Economics report further emphasizes these points. It shows that among frequent business travelers, face-to-face meetings increase the likelihood of a business prospect being converted into customer by two times. 

Meetings play a critical role in connecting people and driving positive business results, whether they are conducted one-on-one or among thousands of people. Traveling out of the office for a larger meeting or conference also creates a sense of excitement and purpose that is hard to replicate virtually. Face-to-face meetings more effectively capture the attention of participants and are a breeding ground for fresh thinking and new ideas. 

As Heffernan notes, meetings give employees at all levels the opportunity to ask clarifying questions, provide real-time reactions, and collaborate with one another. They allow colleagues to step out from behind their devices and come together to discuss timely, complex, and concerning issues.

The misconception that meetings are for managers or are a blatant misuse of time mischaracterizes the impact they can have. Meetings benefit businesses of all kinds and help drive real progress that positions a company for success.

Michael Dominguez, senior vice president and chief sales officer for MGM Resorts International, and Richard Harper, executive vice president of HelmsBriscoe, are co-chairs of Meetings Mean Business, an industry-wide coalition that showcases the real impact face-to-face meetings have on businesses, economies and communities.