Many managers are looking for ways to improve their business communications and reduce wasted time within and outside their companies. Are the most common business communication tools of meetings and emails the real problem? According to recent studies, the number of meetings and their duration has increased but meetings often are less than 50% productive. Are we using meetings when another communication tool like email might be more effective? Email use is on the rise and this too is getting a bad reputation as overused or poorly constructed. Emails are used for internal communications and external marketing so they need to be effective. Many managers are looking for ways to reduce both meetings and emails in their companies. Is reduction the answer or is the answer using the tools correctly and more effectively?

I’ve written a book on meeting management and articles on what goes wrong in meetings, so I already know where most people need help. I wanted to confirm that others may be concerned about what may go wrong in meetings and that meetings need improvement. Since I recently wrote an on-line article titled “Minding Meeting Manners”, so I thought it might be helpful to use a popular internet search engine to measure how important the topic of “meeting etiquette” or “meeting manners” is. Using these as keyword in my search, the combined total was over 41,900 results. Just to see if there was agreement with some of my meeting improvement ideas in my articles and books, I read a few of the results which had descriptions that indicated they would provide solutions. Much of the text I read included a few of the thirteen items in my article or some of the hints in my book. However, they often listed other problem areas that were job specific. Although the item I reviewed did not yield all the same things I felt were essential, they did reinforce my belief that meetings are important and that everyone needs to better know how to take advantage f this group communication method for business purposes.

After looking up meetings, I decided to check out “email etiquette” and got over 348,000 results. I scanned the list of options in the first few pages and checked out the ones that claimed to include tips in their descriptions. Some of those I read I agreed with as relevant for professional emails and others I disagreed with because they might work for personal email but were not the correct usage for business communications. However, I found that much of the text agreed with many of the thirteen I listed in the on-line article I wrote last month titled “Encouraging Email Etiquette”. Some justified their belief in what they stated with an explanation but most did not. For people to display proper etiquette in emails, they not only need to know what is acceptable but why that should be the norm. Email is a great communication tool but only if the receiver understands what the sender is trying to say. Although I may not agree with every email etiquette item I reviewed, the number of results clearly indicates this is a valid communication concern for business professionals.

I wanted to find out if the two most popular business communication tools needed to be reduced or if they needed to be used effectively. In turning to the internet as a research tool, I’m not sure if the resulting numbers can indicate which tool people really need the most help with or which is used the most. Either way, I feel confident that the results indicate all professionals need both meeting and email communication skills to be improved for business purposes. Improvement and proper utilization is more realistically the answer to business communication problems than trying to reduce the necessary use of meetings or email.

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