Communication is key — but when should you say, "Enough is enough" when scheduling meetings? Stacy Stubblefield, co-founder and vice president, Product Strategy at TeleSign quantifies just how much money a meeting costs a company.—Jennifer Bosavage, editor
Have you ever sat back, thrown your feet up on your desk, and thought about the financial impact meetings are having on your business every single day, hour after hour? I’m not talking about external client meetings, meetings with VC’s, vendors or any meeting that involves someone from outside your company – that’s a whole separate matter. Instead, I’m talking about the dozens of time-sucking meetings that are constantly taking place across your organization. Look around, there’s probably one happening right now.
Some people will argue that meetings are important for information sharing across a company. Others will say that meetings are where key decisions get made. I disagree with both of these points of view. How often to you attend meetings where anything of value is actually accomplished? If you’re like most of us, the answer is: not often.
So maybe a meeting is a waste of time, but it can still be interesting, and at least you get a bit of time to socialize with your coworkers, right? What’s wrong with that? Well, let’s take a quick look at the financial cost of a meeting. According to Indeed.com, the average salary across all jobs in Los Angeles is $73K. If you invite eight people making an average LA salary (not including benefits, taxes, etc.) to a two-hour meeting, the total cost of your meeting is approximately:
[2 hrs] X [$35/hr] X [8 ppl] = $560
By itself, $560 probably isn’t enough dough to make or break your business. But if you do this twice a week for the entire year, the cost becomes:
[$560/mtg] X [2/wk] X [52 wks/yr] = $58,240.
That’s for just one recurring meeting - think about how many meetings your company has across all departments every day! Plus, while the financial impact is high, I’d argue that the opportunity cost of each meeting is even higher. What else could those eight employees have accomplished during the two hours they spent twice a week in this recurring meeting? Guess what – you’ll never know, because that time is gone FOREVER.
So, what can you do to help make sure this type of needless time-wasting doesn’t happen to you? Here are tips for more productive meetings:
1) Every time you plan a meeting, give a significant amount of consideration to who you’re inviting. Does everyone you plan to invite really need to be there? Determine the total approximate cost of their time, and what’s the ultimate value of the meeting. If the salary cost is approximately $1,500 and you’re making a decision about how to allocate a $1,000 budget, you’re not getting good value for your time. Make sure to cut anyone who isn’t vital to the meeting. Afterward, e-mail a summary to any peripheral stakeholders who need to remain in the loop.
2) Make sure there’s a good reason you’re meeting. You should have AT LEAST ONE clear item that must be accomplished by the end of the meeting. This item could be a decision, a detailed plan with work assignments, a design, etc. But there must be something you can point to after the meeting and say “Look, this is what we accomplished.”
3) Distribute a clear, concise agenda to all attendees at least 24 hours before the meeting begins. The agenda will help attendees come prepared to contribute. It will also help employees identify meetings they don’t need to attend.
4) Schedule the length of your meeting to be as short as possible. People have a tendency to fill up time. If you schedule quick meetings, attendees have more incentive to stay on point rather than getting distracted by tangential issues.
5) Make the meeting as physically uncomfortable as (reasonably) possible. Having attendees stand for the entire meeting is always a good option.
6) There should be no laptops or cell phones in meetings (except to present information). Why are you in the meeting if you have time to check your e-mail and do various other tasks? Instead, leave either your work or yourself at your desk.