A global study of 2 250 senior business professionals, conducted by Barco ClickShare, reveals inefficiencies in business meetings with large implications for productivity. Room layout, interruptions, technology issues, and the presence of food are among the top factors which impact on the engagement of an audience while in a business meeting.

In excess of 2 250 senior business executives from companies in the UK, France, Germany, US, and the UAE, were surveyed on their meeting experiences in day-to-day working life. Using quantitative methods, Barco wanted a better understanding of the impact of a variety of stimulus on an audience’s attentiveness when being presented to. The survey results were backed up with a scientific experiment using brain mapping technology (EEG) on a small number of senior business professionals. Researchers tested participants’ psychological responses to common meeting room scenarios.

The results highlight a range of issues leading to disengagement, distraction and irritation for employees around the world. Simple factors like technical issues, the presence of food, seating arrangements and lack of engaging content were shown to have a significant negative impact on the effectiveness of meetings.

The research revealed the true extent of our shared dislike for inefficient business meetings. Nearly a third of respondents globally said they found less than half of their meetings to be useful, while 38% dared to admit they had dozed off in a meeting before. In fact, not only the number of daily meetings results in loss of attention, but also a poor room layout, or seating arrangements: 6 in 10 (60%) respondents believe that their seating position affects their engagement in a presentation. Test participants sitting at the front of the presentation were more engaged than those at the back who showed signs of boredom.

Over half of respondents (54%) said that their meeting engagement was affected by interruptions, and eight in ten respondents were irritated by late arrivals. Over a third of respondents (41%) of respondents use a computer or phone during a meeting, but 8 out of 10 respondents are offended by this activity, showing a lack of awareness of how their actions strongly impact the success of a meeting.

Of the factors that impact engagement in meetings, technology was identified as one of the most influential. Over two thirds (67 %) of respondents were regularly irritated by technology issues during meetings, with 4 in 10 (41 %) feeling that their engagement was affected by a failure in technology. However, when technology works correctly and multimedia is used within a presentation, nearly three quarters (72 %) are more engaged.

The study exposed the prominent role that food plays in engagement levels in meetings. Well over half of the respondents admitted to attending meetings purely for the free food. While brain mapping showed that the mood of attendees is enhanced by the presence of food, almost a third of business people surveyed said they were distracted by food in business meetings.

Peter Collett, a behavioural psychologist who led the experiment, said: “If things go wrong, it has ramifications, sometimes almost unseen by the people in the audience.” “While many studies focus on how the presenter acts and behaves to improve meeting success, the research conducted by Barco ClickShare presents a unique insight into the factors which may go left unnoticed. Presenters must ensure that the technology works and the room is set-up correctly for the audience. Starting on time and reducing interruptions will greatly increase success but using multimedia and injecting personality will ensure a great experience for all.”

Lieven Bertier, head of Go to Market Strategy and Services Meeting Experience at Barco said: “Our research identified that the success of a meeting is determined by a variety of different factors.”

“Once a meeting is underway, it’s reasonable to assume that engagement levels are governed by the quality of the speaker. However, our research identified that the success of a meeting is determined by a variety of different factors. These factors include having the right technology at the beginning of the meeting to ensure a seamless flow of information, controlling the meeting room environment such as the serving of food, meeting room layout, and disturbances caused by lateness and work device usage. If a business prepares for these eventualities in the right way the probability of a positive outcome is increased, whether this is for an internal company meeting or a presentation to clients and new business prospects.”