In the realm of satire, the inefficient meeting is the stuff of legend, but the bite they take out of your company’s bottom line is anything but funny—and very real.
For starters, the resources they consume is staggering. Research conducted by Bain & Company found that it’s not unusual for an organization to spend 15% of its collective time in meetings.
Digging deeper, the research found that at one company, a 90-minute weekly executive meeting required 300,000 hours per year of prep work. If you were to multiply that time by an average hourly rate of $50, that’s an investment of $15 million per year—for just one meeting!
Making Your Meetings More Productive
Many meetings are essential—and those can be an effective use of time if you follow certain guidelines.
First, make sure all participants receive a clear agenda—and are prepared for that agenda.
Some business leaders have developed clear boundaries around how they run their meetings. For instance, Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos is known for requiring written reports before every meeting, and gives participants time to read through the materials at the outset of the meeting. Writing a narrative requires participants to structure and clarify their thinking, which benefits the meeting organizer and the participants.
If you’re using a meeting to “get your team up-to-speed” or to “review how numbers are tracking” you may be consuming valuable time that could be steered towards making strategic decisions. Follow these tips for making the most of your team’s meeting time:
- Don’t use meetings to collect information. Meetings are often the way teams get together and discuss the status of activities or progress against metrics. Instead, identify a process for collecting and reporting on data, and use meetings to work towards solutions.
- Eliminate meeting bloat. This happens when you invite too many (or not the right) meeting participants, schedule a 30-minute meeting when your objective could be accomplished in 15, or start a meeting 10 minutes late. One of the biggest mistakes meeting organizers make is getting a room full of voices together, but failing to invite a key person—like a manager or executive—to serve as the ultimate decision maker. Be thoughtful about who needs to attend–limit it to only those who should contribute. Equally as important, always start and end meetings on time. Ten minutes of idle time may not seem like much, but when it impacts individuals and teams across the company it can quickly add up to a big hit on productivity.
- Avoid times when people are more likely to be distracted. Many professionals agree the best times to hold meetings is between 9am and 11am and 2pm and 4pm, Tuesday through Thursday. It’s good practice to avoid scheduling meetings at the very beginning or very end of the day, since commute times vary. And although it sounds obvious, meetings held before or during lunch (without food provided) can be affected by less productive, hungry employees.
- Use the parking lot concept. If a meeting participant brings up a question or concern that’s not on the agenda, avoid derailing the entire meeting. Instead, let the participant know the issue will be explored at another time.
- Make meeting follow-up a best practice. Designate someone other than the meeting moderator to take notes. This helps keep the meeting moving, on schedule, and lets note taker focus on capturing key points, assigning actions, and following up with participants if needed. If additional resources are discussed, link to them directly from the recap. Use tools that track action items rather than sending a series of emails that could get lost in inboxes.
- Select the right complementary technology. To support these efforts, use technology for what it was intended: to streamline and simplify, to connect disparate parts, and to keep everyone informed in real time. From sharing materials ahead of the meeting, to providing a real-time source of reporting, to automating reminders for follow-up action items, the right work execution platform can help transform meetings from a drain on resources to a source of true business value.