If you are familiar with the show, "The Office," you may recall Pam and Angela's Party Planning Committee, and their many lengthy, pointless meetings about the color of streamers and brand of crackers (Actually the entire show revolved around impromptu, senseless meetings, and it was hilarious). Unfortunately, this plot is very much a metaphor to many industries today, but it's not quite as funny.
How many meetings have you attended this week? Can you even figure out the number without consulting your packed calendar? In my experience, both small and large businesses are notorious for scheduling meetings for the tiniest of issues, without always giving regards to time management and sometimes ignoring a much more efficient way to exchange the information.
Clearly certain meetings are extremely necessary. And, of course a lot of great ideas can be formed in a group. But, productivity and profitability is being severely affected by the sheer number of hours employees are spending in all of the other "important" meetings.
I did a review of a large community bank's meeting schedule. The results were staggering. An extremely conservative estimate showed that over 3,000 hours of meetings were occurring in a year. When considering the hourly compensation of the attending participants, as well as extra expenses such as provided lunches, these meetings came with the hefty price tag of over $600,000 dollars!
The bank had close to a hundred different types of meetings. Some of which were daily, while others were weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, or annually, but the point to be made is that all of them cumulatively contributed to an inefficient business model and a huge loss in profitability.
Below are a few ideas for you to impart on your company that will not only prevent money from being thrown out of the proverbial meeting room window, but will also contribute to company-wide sanity.
Decide if the Meeting is Necessary
The first step is of course determining whether the goal can be accomplished via email discussion. If the meeting is purely informative, electronic means of communication will typically suffice.
You can thank me later for no longer having to listen to Betty from HR take 30 minutes to get to her irrelevant point.
Email Documents Pre-Meeting
Save time by emailing out any data or power points at least 30 minutes before the meeting begins for participant review. Instruct attendees to bring laptops, if possible, in order to have the documents accessible during the meeting.
(Side benefit- Your CEO will thank you for saving on paper and printing costs)
Only Invite Contributing Personnel
Be selective with who is invited to the meeting. If they are not going to serve a purpose, they should not be there.
Just because Bob from IT wants to attend, doesn't mean he should.
Have a Hard Start and End Time
Promptly begin the meeting without any of the pesky late comers and never let the meeting run over. If the allotted time is absolutely not enough, schedule another meeting (only if electronic communication absolutely won't work). This is important because participants need to be able to plan out their day and stay on track with their many other initiatives.
Ahem, Paul from marketing who always shows up ten minutes late with a fresh coffee in his hand.
Create an Agenda
If the meeting is not important enough to create an agenda, then it is not worth having. An agenda should lay out the objective, minutes, and action items of the meeting. It should be emailed out, with the other documents, before the meeting begins.
This will prevent Zack the new hire from asking 500 premature questions about what will be discussed in the meeting.
Have a Chair Person
The chair person will be in charge of maintaining the time, keeping everyone on Agenda topics, and taking notes. They are an integral part of effective meetings.
They are also super critical in regards to making sure Karen from the executive office doesn't break out the baby pictures...again.
Begin the Meeting with a Review of Last Meeting
Kick off the meeting with a brief discussion of the outcome of the last meeting and allow individuals to give updates on their assigned action items. This serves to refresh participants' memory and allows loose ends to be tied up.
However, be hyperaware of Trina the analyst who essentially wants to re-hash all the points already made in the last meeting.
Finally, send out the notes and minutes from the meeting to all attendees.
That wasn't so bad, was it?
Also, keep in mind, meetings that require participants to travel should be seriously re-evaluated. Technology has come a long way, (Yes, pagers and box phones are officially obsolete) and there is typically no need to have valuable employees spend a large portion of their day on one corporate get-together. In most instances, video or teleconferencing will work just fine.
Plus, employee surveys from the same meeting-prone bank mentioned above indicated a general consensus that staff members strongly dislike traveling for meetings. Save money and simultaneously improve employee morale- How can you beat that?
Simply put, if we can cut down on all the office place nonsense by even a fraction, the benefits are huge and far reaching. More productive and happy staff members will always lead to a more profitable business model.
Who wouldn't like to experience a little more success (Or at least get to leave the office on time for once)?