Meetings are meant to be an engine room for productivity in the workplace, but that isn’t always the case, truth be told.
Rita J. King, Co-Director of Science House in New York, recently wrote that many companies desperately need more clarity and focus when they organise meetings. Why? She points out that meetings have a real cost and therefore should contribute real value.
While that may sound like a no-brainer, few people actually stop to think about the extra cost to the company if just one more person is invited to a meeting, or if a meeting of ten people runs for an hour instead of thirty minutes.
So let’s suppose you go ahead and invite those ten people to a one-hour meeting. If your company is like many out there, you probably didn’t need to get any approval to do this. When the meeting is finished, will the hourly cost of the attendees show up as an expense to your department? In most organisations, the answer is no.
With almost any other expense you are likely to incur to your employer, there is an approval process in place. Someone will have to weigh up the pros and cons and decide whether to spend that money.
When a resource is perceived as having no cost, people naturally consume more of it, and don’t feel so bad about wasting it. So people tend to schedule lots of meetings and invite lots of people, even if some of those people aren’t really sure why they were invited or what they can contribute. By the year’s end, your boss probably will ask you about projects that you have accomplished. But will you be asked about how many people you invited to meetings? Probably not.
Harvard Business Review even has an app to help keen meeting organisers estimate the cost of a meeting. Our ten-person, one-hour example above is likely to cost at least several hundred dollars.
To balance the discussion, what are the revenues generated by meetings? After all, any activities of an organisation should strive to add value, which in business, usually means generating revenue. For example, investments in advertising are made in order to increase sales. If sales revenue rises more than the cost of the advertising, you may be adding to the bottom line, with a positive ROI. But if sales revenue does not increase by at least the cost of the advertising, it was likely a poor investment.
The exact same thinking can (and should) be applied to meetings. The investment made (i.e. the time of each participant) should be compared to the output that is generated by the meeting. In other words, what is the ROI for each meeting? Meetings that generate more value than their cost are clearly worth the investment for the organisation.
The goal of meetings at work should be to get things done, and yet many executives admit that many meetings are little more than a time sink.
A useful infographic created by Visual.ly in collaboration with online meeting company Fuze, can help you make sure your next meeting is not only productive, but also worth the money it’s costing. Here’s a few of the highlights.
7 tips for better meetings
1. Schedule shorter meetings
2. Set clear expectations
3. Send materials in advance
4. Start and end on time
5. Avoid monologues
6. Stay focused
7. Capture key points and action items
3 questions to ask before scheduling your next meeting
1. Is a meeting necessary? Explore options requiring less time from co-workers
2. Who really needs to be there? Be clear about required vs optional participants
3. What can I do to ensure that it is focused and interactive. Come up with a clear agenda. Send materials in advance and capture action items
So in conclusion, even just thinking about the real cost of meetings can shift your thinking on this very time and resource heavy problem. If you apply just a few of the suggestions in this blog post, you’ll be well on your way to transforming your meetings, ROI and organisation.