8 ways to make your meetings less costly, more productive

by Staff Writer

Meetings cost businesses a lot of money.

$15 million per year, in one case. That’s what researchers at Bain & Company determined a weekly executive meeting cost one business each year. More broadly, the research found that many companies spend 15 percent of their collective time in meetings.

The good news about meetings

Before you go on a meeting-canceling spree, keep in mind that many meetings are important, and contribute to the success of the company.

But if you think the meetings you’re responsible for are neither as productive nor efficient as they could be, there are several corrective steps you can take:

  1. Make sure everyone you invite is essential to the meeting. If possible, make sure a manager or executive who can make decisions is in attendance.

  2. If a meeting only requires 15 minutes, don’t schedule it for 30.

  3. Start and end 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.

  1. Send all participants an agenda so they can be fully prepared for the meeting before it starts.

  2. Identify a process for collecting and reporting on data. That way you can use the meeting to work towards solutions, rather than as a forum for discussing the status of projects, progress against metrics, or other factual matters that can be easily shared with everyone electronically.

  3. Schedule meetings when people are less likely to be distracted. Many professionals avoid scheduling meetings at the beginning or end of the day, the beginning or end of the week, or at lunchtime.

  4. Defer unrelated topics. If a participant brings up something that’s not on the agenda, let the participant know the issue will be explored at another time (sometimes referred to as the “parking lot”) rather than derail the entire meeting.

  5. Make meeting follow-up count. Rather than sending individual emails, use tools that track action items assigned during the meeting.

Finally, select the right complementary technology. Solutions available today automate and streamline important functions like reporting and follow-up that can transform your meetings from a waste of time into an investment that delivers real business value.