Should You Change the Way Your Business Conducts Meetings?

Time is money, so every business meeting has a dollar value. When meetings are frequent, overly long, and unfocused, businesses may be spending money without getting much in return.

Harvard Business Review created a meeting cost calculator that lets business owners input meeting length, number of attendees, and salaries of attendees to see the actual cost of meetings. For example, a 45-minute meeting with three attendees who all earn $50,000 per year costs a business $79. Higher salaries can drive up the cost of meetings significantly – a study by Bain & Company found the annual dollar value of one company’s weekly executive meeting was $15 million.

Businesses can reduce the costs of meetings by adopting a new, more efficient approach.

Set Expectations

Every meeting should have a leader, and that leader should send a meeting agenda to all participants in advance. The agenda should specify what items will be discussed, the purpose of the meeting, and the start and end time. If the meeting leader expects attendees to contribute something specific, the leader can direct attendees to prepare in advance.

Create Policies

Some meetings may necessitate the use of laptops, but technology is often a distraction in meetings. The leader can determine whether to adopt a “no technology” policy for a meeting, to ensure attendees aren’t distracted by laptops and cellphones.

Stay on Track

A leader needs to keep everyone on track, ensuring that the meeting covers each agenda item, and only what’s on the agenda. If discussion of a single item seems to be dragging on, the leader can decide to table that topic for a future discussion, in order to work through the entire agenda.

During the course of the meeting, if a new issue should arise, the leader can make note of it and if needed, it could be discussed in a subsequent meeting.

Experiment with Timing and Scheduling

Many workplaces have weekly meetings of an hour or more, on Mondays, with the purpose of defining objectives for the week. But the longer a meeting runs, the more likely people are to stop paying attention – and on Mondays, people may be tempted to chit-chat about their weekends.

Shorter meetings that allow teams to quickly touch base may be better for productivity. Some companies have workers stand for 15-minute meetings, and one business executive reported that when he switched to standing meetings, he reduced his average meeting time from 48 minutes to 36 minutes.

Standing has several effects: It keeps people alert, it creates a sense of shared responsibility, and it motivates people to stay on-topic (because they know they can sit down when the meeting ends).

Timing can help people focus, too. If your normal working hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., scheduling a meeting at 4:45 p.m. is a surefire way to keep people from rambling about unrelated topics.

Follow Up

After a meeting, the leader should compose a quick follow-up email that summarizes what was discussed. If a meeting attendee was assigned a task or volunteered to take an action, that should be included in the meeting wrap-up to ensure accountability.

In workplaces where rambling, unfocused meetings have become the norm, it may take time to get everyone accustomed to a new way of doing things. But it’s worth the effort.

Luk Law, LLC, specializes in advising entrepreneurs at every stage of owning a business, helping to avoid litigation when possible and actively representing our clients in court when litigation is necessary. Our experienced attorneys have provided legal counsel and representation to business owners in Frederick County, Howard County, Baltimore County, Baltimore City, Carroll County, Washington County, and Anne Arundel County, and other counties in Maryland. If you need legal guidance, call us at 443-535-9715 or fill out our contact form.

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