Meet less, do more: How to mitigate meeting fatigue. Meet less, do more: How to mitigate meeting fatigue.

Just because your calendar’s full doesn’t mean your productivity is up.  

In the dynamic landscape of higher education, where stakeholders are often inundated with meetings and consultations, the challenge of fatigue looms large.  

Whether it’s developing consultation programs for major branding initiatives, crafting compelling cases for support, or collaborating with strategic planning partners, the need to engage various stakeholders effectively while avoiding overwhelming them is crucial. Let’s dive into what causes fatigue and most importantly – how to mitigate it. 

How’d we get here in the first place?  

Higher education institutions are renowned for their intricate organizational structures. From diverse stakeholders – including faculty, administrators, students, alumni, and external partners – to various different audiences, each department has its own priorities, objectives, and communication channels. The complexity of navigating hierarchical structures and bureaucratic processes can lead to an overdose of meetings, contributing to fatigue amongst teams across your institution.  

While meetings are essential for getting input and (oh so many) perspectives, meeting fatigue can lead to decreased productivity, staff burnout and stress, strained internal morale and straight-up deterioration of your team’s productivity. Too much talking, not enough doing. 

But less consultation isn’t the answer. In an environment filled with subject matter experts, all (presumably) passionate about higher ed.’s incredible contribution to our society – none of us are as smart as all of us. Soliciting input and feedback into broad initiatives is a valuable endeavour.  

But not always an efficient one. 

How to avoid meeting fatigue

Be strategic with timing. 

When embarking on consultation initiatives in higher education, timing is everything. While the academic calendar may seem perpetually busy, there are definite periods of both heightened activity and relative lulls. Planning ahead and being mindful of these fluctuations can help improve the effectiveness of consultations. 

For instance, convocation, a time of celebration and academic ceremonies, may not be the most opportune moment to solicit input from faculty entangled in more timely commitments and students who’s reached a crescendo in their academic careers. Similarly, the summer vacation period, while seemingly less hectic, poses challenges in engaging students who may not be on campus in significant numbers, as well as alumni who work in the ‘real world’ and might be more likely to be out-of-office with their families. 

The key lies in identifying the various stakeholders—students, academic faculty, alumni, administration—and understanding their scheduling dynamics. While scheduling consultations to accommodate diverse schedules may take additional effort, the payoff in terms of increased focus and participation goes a long way with your team and your productivity.  

Change how you engage people

The same, stuffy boardroom meeting at the same time every week can get tiring just thinking about it. By offering a spectrum of engagement options, institutions can cater to individual preferences and optimize participation. Let’s take a deeper look at the different options you have for engaging your team. 

FORUMS

Forums are larger group discussions or workshops typically attended by 30-60 people or more. Here what we like about them: 

Inclusivity: Forums can include and invite a large number of participants, ensuring diverse perspectives are represented in the discussion. This helps prevent the formation of echo chambers and fosters robust dialogue. 

Versatility: Forums can easily accommodate various audiences in the room, allowing for cross-disciplinary exchange and collaboration. When programmed as a workshop, they also serve as valuable engagement opportunities for participants. 

Engagement Focus: Despite their large size, a well-run forum stays focused on the initiative’s outcome. However, that success hinges on the strength of the moderator leading the session. 

SMALL GROUP DISCUSSIONS

Small group discussions involve fewer participants, typically ranging from 2-20 people. Here’s what we like about them: 

Diverse Perspectives: Despite their smaller size, small group discussions can invite multiple audiences to share perspectives, preventing the formation of echo chambers. 

Specialization: They allow for focused discussions with single, special-interest audiences while incorporating multiple voices within the group. However, there’s a risk of tokenizing or ‘othering’ if not carefully managed. 

Efficiency: Small group discussions offer efficiencies similar to one-on-one conversations but allow for broader participation and exchange of ideas. 

ONE-ON-ONE DISCUSSIONS

One-on-one discussions involve individual conversations with one participant. Here’s why they’re effective: 

Key Stakeholder Engagement: They’re especially effective for engaging key project drivers whose buy-in is essential to an initiative. 

In-Depth Probing: One-on-one discussions allow for more in-depth exploration beyond the discussion guide questions, facilitating deeper insights. 

Efficiency: They offer efficiencies similar to small group conversations but with a more personalized approach. 

SURVEYS

Surveys are mass instruments for efficiently gathering responses from a larger number of people. There are countless websites that can help facilitate surveys. Here’s why they’re valuable: 

Reach and Scalability: Surveys can reach a large number of respondents efficiently, making them ideal for gathering feedback from diverse audiences. 

Trackability: They provide trackable data that can be used to set baselines and establish key performance indicators for major initiatives. 

Efficiency: Surveys are easy to distribute and automate online, streamlining data capture and reporting processes. 

Put efficiency first and foremost.

Marketing is all about navigation. You’re not really the captain of a ship in a raging sea, but sometimes it feels like it – you’re constantly rallying your crew, searching for security and dodging storms. Above all, efficiency is what takes you forward. Think of that next time you sit down to plan your months ahead. 

Aligning initiatives, particularly strategic planning endeavors and institutional reputation management, can create synergies and amplify the impact your team has. Properly coordinating timelines and initiatives with colleagues ensures that consultations are conducted thoughtfully, maximizing participation and minimizing disruption.  

Re-organize how you get organized. It can make a difference that will correct your course. As always, it starts with the people around you. Talk to them. See how they’re feeling and if anything can change to make their jobs easier. It doesn’t take an expert to know: the more positive the interactions are between your team, the more the team gets done.  

If you’re looking for help along the way, we’d love to discuss it. Reach out here. 

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