If you are looking to eliminate wasted time and drive efficiency then it might be wise to review how meetings are run in your organisation. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that United States businesses lose around $37 billion annually in wage costs due to unnecessary and ineffective meetings. Unproductive meetings are costly for Australian organisations too. Next time you are in a meeting, consider the cost to your orgnisation.

Meetings are a microcosm of management. Well-run meetings are linked to well run companies and a reflection of effective management. As a leader it’s up to you to set the pace and make well run meetings part of your organisational culture. Ensure every meeting you attend has a goal and results are measured.

In the organisations we work with, I see meetings held for a many reasons: decision-making, idea generation or information sharing. Yet often these meetings are held for too long, lack focus and the result is that little is achieved. On the flip side, a well-run meeting will deliver enormous business value and reduce the need for further meetings.

Some disturbing statistics that may interest you:

  • office workers spend around 37% of their work time in meetings
  • around 47% of employees find meetings to be a waste of time
  • many participants will sleep or struggle to concentrate during a meeting
  • managers attend more than 60 meetings per month
  • many participants bring other work to meetings
  • 25%–50% of meeting time is wasted.

It’s not all bad news.

When used effectively, meetings can ensure the success of a project and allow team members to collaborate and communicate effectively. I have a few tips for you to try in your next meeting.

  1. Ensure that the purpose of the meeting is clear and prepare an agenda that lists meeting goals as well as outlines any preparation or work required of the participants. Keep the meeting focused by having a main topic, and aim for shorter meetings that focus on a single topic.
  2. Ensure that only the people required for decision-making or information sharing are invited to the meeting. Circulate the agenda to provide the opportunity for other items to be added.
  3. Consider the best time of day and duration for your meeting. I find morning meetings are more productive, and I rarely schedule a meeting directly after lunch because some people find it difficult to focus. But another team may be more productive in the afternoon. Scheduling shortermeetings will keep the group focused and on track.
  4. If participants are in different locations, it can be more efficient to have a virtual meeting (teleconference or a web meeting) rather than meeting in person. Travel time is saved and unnecessary disruption avoided. Virtual meetings don’t always work well for large groups. If you have a larger group that needs to meet, perhaps some preliminary one-on-one work can be done over the phone before the whole group meets. Breaking meetings into smaller sessions can be more productive. Also ensure that meeting rooms are booked and enough chairs are available for the number of participants.
  5. Establish ground rules for all meetings. Essential items to have in your rule book are:
    • switch all devices off
    • be punctual
    • meeting organiser to arrive early and check that flip charts and whiteboards are clean with suitable pens and required audiovisual equipment is working
    • follow the agenda and stay focused.
  6. Start on time, even if all participants haven’t arrived. Everyone’s time is valuable so ensure the meeting starts and finishes at the designated time. It’s a good idea to leave seats closest to the door free so that latecomers do not distract the group.
  7. Take minutes and if meeting is a follow-on from a previous meeting, ensure that all action items are completed and any incomplete items added to the minutes.
  8. Finish the meeting on time and repeat and agree on outcomes and action items.

To remain competitive and leverage the collective intelligence within an organisation, meetings are the ideal forum to encourage collaboration. But we need to ensure that meetings managed correctly. Now is the time to change your organisations cultural views on meetings by insisting that all meetings are conducted in an effective and time-efficient manner with a focus on achieving goals.

Understanding the human cost of meetings

All meetings have a cost, each participant is spending time attending the session. They have an hourly pay rate. While they are attending the meeting it’s more than likely they are not doing something else. So the opportunity cost also needs to be considered. Next time you attend a meeting consider it’s cost. Answer the questions below to calculate the cost.

  1. What is the average annual salary of the group members?
  2. How many people are in attendance?
  3. What is the duration of the meeting (hours)?

To determine the amount simply multiply a by b and then divide that by 1,800 to get the hourly rate. Then multiply the hourly rate by c to calculate the total cost of the meetings.

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