Elon Musk is right, meetings are broken – here’s how AI can fix them

On average, employees in the UK spend around 25% of their working week preparing for and attending meetings*. This goes up to 50% for executives. Sadly, 34% of that time doesn’t add any value and 90% of all that meeting information is lost when the meeting ends**.

Not a pretty picture, is it.

In fact, just last week Elon Musk himself told staff at Tesla to walk out of unproductive meetings and phone calls.

“It is not rude to leave, it is rude to make someone stay and waste their time,” he wrote in a leaked email.

Using AI to fix meetings.

Musk’s advice may be a little extreme. Not every meeting is going to 100% productive and storming out of meetings on a regular basis may raise a few eyebrows. Plus, meetings are important: they bring people together, build relationships and provide a space for creativity and innovation. What if there was a way to reduce the amount of time spent in meetings at the same time as getting more done?

Well, good news – there is. AI is revolutionising the way we have meetings, letting teams around the world communicate and collaborate seamlessly, in multiple languages and locations.

We tapped into the power of IBM’s supercomputer AI, Watson, to create our own Cognitive Whiteboards. If you’re unfamiliar with Watson, you can watch the below to learn more about how it works.

Here are just a few of the ways that AI will totally change the way we have meetings.

l. Breaking down language barriers

Want to brainstorm with a team in Delhi but worried the language barrier will slow things down? No problem. AI will translate everything you write or say in real-time and display it on-screen to participants around the world in their local languages.

2. Breaking down geographical barriers

Teams in multiple locations around the world will be able to see and edit one another’s notes and sketches, in real-time, as they make them on-screen.

3. Keeping track of the agenda, the attendees and sending you a reminder if you forget something

Meetings aren’t always straightforward. It’s easy for things to drop off the agenda. AI can take care the ‘housekeeping’ – keeping track of who’s in the room, what’s on the agenda and if something has yet to be discussed – so participants can focus on the task at hand.

4. Taking care of slide navigation

There’s nothing worse than having to break up your presentation to scroll through slides or mess about with your laptop. With AI, once connected, you’ll be able to scroll through the slides using voice command.

5. Creating, sending, printing and securely saving digitised notes

As mentioned earlier, 90% of the information discussed in a meeting is lost once people leave the room. AI-enabled devices will keep track of all on-screen notes and sketches as you create them, then when the meeting’s over, share them with meeting participants or securely save them to a USB or built-in temporary drive.

That said, not everyone has access to AI-enabled devices. Follow these steps to run your meetings right, no matter what tech you’re using:

Timing is everything

Pick a convenient time for the meeting. Start on time and don’t burn time with small talk. Keep it short, 45 minutes max. If you don’t have a great deal to get through, make it a 15-minute standing catch up instead.

Collaboration or communication

Decide whether the meeting is to collaborate and find new solutions or communicate and share information. Either way, prepare accordingly.


The person who called the meeting must be prepared and ensure that others have prepared. Meetings not adequately prepared for should be postponed. Meetings scheduled for longer than 15 minutes should have an agenda, published in advance.


Informal catch-ups in coffee shops or cafes make a nice change, but don’t attempt proper meetings in those places.

Stick to the agenda

Don’t add extra topics – you may not have the right people there and even if you do they may not be properly prepared.

Stay focused

Keep phones in pockets. Focus on making decisions and agreeing on actions. Don’t get stuck discussing unnecessary background and history. Certainly, don’t get caught up in disputes or dishing out blame. If absolutely necessary, these things should be covered in separate meetings or reviews.

If you’d like to learn more about how Ricoh can help your teams collaborate and communicate more effectively, just fill out the form to the right (or below if you’re on mobile) to download The Decision Maker’s Guide to Workplace Transformation.

*EShare 2016

**IBM and Ricoh research

Mark Ivens

Product Marketing Manager at Ricoh UK

Read all articles by Mark Ivens