Meetings are an important part of a company’s life. Employees spend a lot of time on them. All types of meetings are however a cost to the company. The more people take part in them and the higher their positions are, the more these costs increase. Meetings help to exchange information and discuss important issues, but when conducted improperly, they end up generating a lot of expenses that the company could avoid.

For example, 1 hour meeting of 10 people costs the company 10 man-hours. If this meeting takes place weekly — it adds up to 480 hours a year, or 60 working days, which translates into about 3 months of work of a single team member. What would you do with an employee who has worked for 3 months and had nothing to show for it? Exactly. In this article you will learn what you need to remember if you don’t want meetings in your company to be only a waste of time and money.

Not all meeting have to take place

Face-to-face meetings should only take place in cases that cannot be dealt with by email written within half an hour. Although 30 minutes of writing an email seems to be a very long time, it is not at all long in relation to a 45-minute meeting at which there will be 3 people present (2.15 man-hours). This is especially true for meetings that are informative and their purpose is to convey what has happened in a particular case, rather than, for example, find new solutions or answer a number of questions that may arise.

Meetings are a last resort. Apart from project managers, management staff, coordinators, customer service team and sales representatives, no one in the company should have more than 5 hours of regular meetings per week.

make meetings efficient

A meeting has to have an agenda/introduction

Meetings are more effective if each participant has a chance to prepare for them — start them with preliminary thoughts or questions that they want to ask. If during the conversation it gets difficult to determine something specific “because we still need to prepare X data”, it means that these data should have been prepared in advance.

It should also be remembered that time spent together is particularly valuable, so it’s even more important to remove from the meeting everything that can be done individually before it starts. If there are meetings without an agenda/introduction in your company, then you may want to consider the principle in which invited employees are not obliged to attend if they don’t receive the agenda/introduction.

A meeting should generate expected results

During a meeting devoted to solving a specific problem, it is important to properly understand it. However, you have to make sure that the discussion of the problem doesn’t turn into a complaint fest. The time spent on discussion won’t be wasted if the conversation is constructive and the participants’ approach is “what can we do to fix it?”.

A meeting has to end with a to-do list and people responsible for each task

The expected effect of the meeting is to take action to resolve the problem. For example, during a meeting about communication problems between sales and marketing teams, it was agreed that these two teams should talk to each other more often and in more details. There is a high risk that the resolution itself will lose very quickly to “fires”, “daily grind” and duties. The following will help to achieve measurable effects:

  • Specific actions, e.g. once a month, sales and marketing teams discuss cooperation during a 30 minutes meeting, and at the end of the week similar status is done via email,

  • The owner, i.e. the person who is responsible for the implementation of the resolutions and will be accountable if the agreed actions don’t happen or their quality differs from expectations, e.g. if it turns out that for some interested parties it wasn’t clear what should be included in the status, it will be the owner’s responsibility.

  • The deadline, e.g. the first email status between sales and marketing teams is to take place in the upcoming week.

If another meeting about the same case takes place, it is worth starting by discussing the next steps agreed at the previous one, i.e. determining the stage at which the agreed actions are.

A meeting is not just a chit-chat opportunity

Oftentimes, a huge part of the meetings is occupied by people who like to talk a lot and have to share their thoughts extensively. The role of the meeting organizer is to ensure that such people don’t dominate the meeting — that they don’t use up the time, which could be needed e.g. by someone who really has something important to say or to discuss all points on the agenda.

You also need to make sure that the opinion of the loudest speaker doesn’t become becomes a fact only because it was heard the most during the meeting. The course of the meeting should be decided by common sense and constructive arguments. It is worth making it clear during the meeting who the moderator is, who has permission to cut off side threads and too extensive statements. If your problem is dragging meetings, then you might want to consider having them “standing”.

Note to managers: Keep silent as much as possible at meetings. If you have to talk — try to speak last, giving others (usually those who are closer to the problem discussed) a chance to speak. It’s best if you try to ask the right questions instead of making statements. You have the power and competence, so if you try to know the answers to all the questions, your colleagues will get used to it and become helpless. They will wait for you to solve the problems and answer the questions.

make meetings efficient

You can’t say I didn’t have time for that during a meeting

A common reason for wasting resources is lack of responsibility. At meetings, this manifests itself when phrases such as “I didn’t have time for it” come up. All people have 24 hours a day, so the problem is not the lack of time, but proper prioritization. Much more accurately, you could say “I didn’t do it because X, Y and Z was more important and urgent”. Using this phrase will create a habit of reflection within the company about managing your responsibilities and help eliminate situations where “lack of time” meant “I can’t manage my time” or worse, “I didn’t feel like doing it”.

Remember not to interrupt

This tip seems obvious — “I don’t interrupt another participants in the meeting, because it is rude and introduces chaos in conversation”. On the one hand, it’s hard to disagree with it, on the other, there are still meetings where someone can’t (and won’t) hold back, although he could calmly wait his turn. If you have a problem with the fact that people interrupt each other, then try a new rule: you pass the ball and only the person who has it in their hands can speak.

Disregarded deadlines and after-hours are also affected by time wasted by unnecessary or poorly organized meetings. A meeting that boils down to “discussing something” will be an unnecessary expense for the company, as long as it doesn’t result in specific actions that will actually happen. Making sure the meetings are efficient requires only (and as far as) regularity and consistency. Your duty is to ensure that your employees are aware of this — it is also their time and they should use it effectively for the company and themselves.

make meetings efficient