No matter what kind of business you have or wherever in the world you run it, there's a given reality that meetings are a part of it. Start your day with a group meeting, end the day with a review, organise a catch up for that project or brainstorm for potential leads. These may all seem like legitimate reasons to hold a meeting but the other reality is many employees leave meetings feeling they are a waste of time.
Some research from the U.S. shows that they can be a waste of money too – one statistic, cited regularly in articles, puts the total salary cost for unnecessary meetings at around US$37-billion a year. What's more 45 percent of attendees reportedly feel overwhelmed by so many meetings and 73 percent do other work while in meetings.
If you don't know how much you're spending take a look at the Harvard Business Review Meeting Cost Calculator. Say, you have a start-up of five people on an average salary of US$40k (CAD$53,312), then the average cost of a 30 minute meeting will be around US$70 (CAD$93), which will double the higher the salaries of the attendees or lengthier the meeting. Then you might also need to add on travel expenses, meeting room costs, catering or phone dial up connection.
That might not seem like a lot, but if you let these small meetings get out of hand then it will start to encroach on your profitability and productivity both at the macro and micro level. Too many meetings on too many different things can be overwhelming and overstimulating. The prior belief that a good multitasker is productive has been rivaled with many suggesting that more focused work on one thing at a time generates better results. Furthermore, less meetings mean less distractions.
The answer isn’t to eliminate meetings completely, collaboration and communication is still a crucial part of building an effective business, it’s to make them more efficient and a value add.
Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Create a budget for meetings and that will force you to consider carefully whether that upcoming meeting is really worth digging into it.
- Make sure there is a defined aim to the meeting with a smart agenda with a logical flow.
- Always start meetings promptly rather than waiting for latecomers.
- Ban devices from the meeting, mobile phone or laptop working while trying to achieve the meeting objectives will weaken the effectiveness of doing so.
- As the cost of a meeting person increases with each attendee, only invite people who need to be there and encourage apologies in advance.
If despite all your efforts you find your meetings aren’t achieving anything or are getting out of hand then think about making endemic changes to the way you do things. Are a series of one-on-ones better, or a creative thread on email for idea generation for instance? Either way, your business and bottom line will benefit if you consider the cost implications at stake.