Among the 25 million meetings that take place in the US every day, 92 percent of the participants engage in some form multitasking such as texting, checking emails, or eating. As many as 41 percent multitask all the time. Which would be fine if multitasking made people more productive. In fact, it does the opposite.
A very informative infographic, The High Cost Of Multitasking vividly illustrates the madness of multitasking. A study at Stanford University goes so far as to assert that multitasking is always ineffective. One of its researchers, Professor Dr. Clifford I. Nass, warns, “Do not multitask frequently. If you do, you will hurt your thinking, even when you are not multitasking.”
The global cost of multitasking staggers the mind—$450 billion a year. It’s up to you as a leader to combat such a waste of human resources.
You can begin by focusing on multitasking in meetings. The challenge of keeping participants engaged is not the same for all kinds of gatherings. You can see who’s texting, for example, during in-person meetings. When you see it, you can stop it.
But only 16 percent of people multitask in live meetings, according to one source. Phone conferences lose about 57 percent of participants to multitasking. Web conferences, 23 percent. And only 4 percent of video conference attendees multitask.
As usual our wired world presents greater challenges along with new opportunities. For example, since only 4 percent of video conference attendees multitask, you can begin by opting for video over audio-only conferences whenever you can.
Instead of assuming your virtual attendees are paying attention, check in with them. Encourage questions. Question them. Depending on your audience, you might announce at the start of your meeting that you will offer some kind of reward for all those who can answer a number of questions at the end of the meeting.
And of course, finally, meet in person if you can. Nothing virtual beats face-to-face intimacy. At least not yet. Earlier this year, I offered 4 Uncommon Tips for Stronger Meeting Focus. I invite you to review the advice I collected there for increasing engagement in live meetings.