Since Time is Money, Let’s Shorten and Improve Meetings

Posted on October 25, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , |

Meetings are often required to accomplish objectives and share information. Unfortunately every company I know has too many meetings lasting far longer than needed, and involve too many people. An employee’s time is expensive, perishable and non-replenishable. Wasted meeting time steals from the accomplishment of productive work, steals away time from family and friends, and steals from ourselves. If a meeting organizer is not careful a lot of valuable time can be wasted. Let’s convert time to money, examine the meeting cost, and provide tips on improving meetings to be more cost effective.

Recently a bank employee told me about his twice monthly face-to-face meetings downtown. Ten people are in the meetings, which last about 90 minutes. Seven of the ten people have to drive downtown to get to the meeting, averaging a 30 minute drive each way. Mileage and parking is reimbursed by the bank, and on average each person’s salary is $40/hour. Let’s determine the value of the time of these twice monthly meetings. Each meeting costs $600 in salary, $280 in travel time, and $266 in reimbursable mileage and parking. This is $1,146/meeting, or $2,292/month. Calculate the cost of all the team meetings within the bank each month and see how expensive meetings can be.

A good step in improving meetings is having a specific agenda and objective, assigning pre-meeting preparation tasks, and assigning action items and documenting decisions at the end. A 90 minute meeting should be shortened to 60 minutes, a 60 minute meeting shortened to 45 minutes, etc. Another improvement is to consider the participants in the meeting and only invite those that must attend. How often have you sat through a long meeting only to find that your participation was either not needed, or only needed for five minutes? Wouldn’t it be better if you were only brought in for your five minutes? Maybe the bank needs to have four people in their meetings instead of ten.

Eliminating or reducing travel will cut the cost of meetings. In the bank example, does each person really need to drive downtown twice a month? An audio conference call would save time and money. Each person could call in from their desk, resulting in no mileage or parking cost, and no lost productivity in driving. Unfortunately these calls don’t always help with saving meeting time. Everyone I know places audio conference calls on mute and multi-tasks, checks emails, etc. It becomes evident when a question is asked of a person on the audio call, and that person who wasn’t paying attention, asks for the question to be repeated. Audio conference calls are great for saving travel, but a lot of effort needs to be placed in making them time efficient and not drag on for hours.

At this point you may be thinking that face-to-face meetings have other benefits, such as helping a group of people feel like a team. Audio calls are just not as good as seeing the other people on the team. When you see the other people it serves to build a social connection, helps to establish better working relationships, and fosters a deeper sense of belonging to the group. Not to mention that when you see a person face-to-face it makes it obvious if someone is multitasking or not paying attention. These benefits are real, and it is the reason why the bank choses to hold face-to-face meetings instead of audio conference calls. However with the advent of desktop video conferencing services, businesses can conduct face-to-face meetings from the desktop without the travel.

Instead of an audio conference call for your meetings, try a video meeting. You will see the participants face-to-face, you will eliminate travel cost, and by seeing that everyone is paying attention you can keep meetings focused and short. After all, time is precious.

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