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June 17, 2009

Looking to Save More Time/Money? Manage Meetings

Filed under: General HR Buzz1:48 pm

“Times are tough.” “We have to tighten our belts.” “We have to work smarter, not harder.” “We have to do more with less.” You may be sick of hearing these clichés but they all ring true, especially now. One way to ‘tighten your belt” is to make staff meetings more efficient.  This will not only save the company time and money, it will reduce the staff’s frustration level from having to attend boring, unproductive meetings.

In order to understand the cost savings of running more effective meetings, you must “do the math” to understand what meetings cost. Here is an example to illustrate. Some studies suggest that middle and upper level managers spend between 40%-50% of their time attending meetings. For the purposes of this example, let’s play it safe, and say that they spend 30% of their time in meetings. If the average salary of a manager is $70k (including benefits) per year this would translate to $21,000 cost for one manager to attend meetings over the course of the year. If your company has 10 managers this translates to $210,000 spent on meetings; and $2.1 million for 100 managers. This translates to about $33.65 per hour, per manager, to attend a meeting. So, if ten managers attend a 3 hour meeting, it costs the company roughly $1,000. You get the idea.

Meetings are expensive but a very necessary part of running any business. If we can take that three hour meeting and accomplish the same work using 25% less time the company would save $252. If an organization with 10 managers can reduce meeting time by 25% they could save the company $52,500 per year. An organization with 100 managers could save the company $525,000 per year. Well run staff meetings save time and money and can also minimize frustration.

What does a well run meeting look like? It starts and ends on time, communication flows in all directions, the leader communicates expectations, employees openly communicate with the leader and with each other, issues are discussed, decisions are made, work gets done, and everyone leaves energized and upbeat. Conversely, a poorly run meeting starts late, often runs over, few people talk (except the leader), digressions are rampant, no one knows exactly why they are there, and participants leave feeling frustrated and angry that their time was wasted.

Here are some tips you can use to help your organization better manage meetings and ensure participants leave the meeting excited and upbeat.

Identify and Document the Meeting Objectives Before the Meeting

This is the single most important thing you can do when preparing for a meeting. Your objectives define what you want to have done at the end of the meeting. When identifying objectives think about both the tangible and intangible objectives you want to accomplish; tangible objectives are the visible, material deliverables you want in your hand at the end of the meeting. For example, a list of strategies to improve service, a project plan or a budget draft. Intangible objectives focus on less visible deliverables. For example, to build excitement about a new program, to improve teamwork, to get participants to know each other better.  Objectives dictate how you organize the meeting and how you behave while leading the meeting. Having a meeting without clear objectives is like driving a car with no defined destination. You will waste time, waste money, annoy meeting participants and get nowhere.

Plan Your Agenda

Objectives identify what you want to accomplish by the end of the meeting; the agenda outlines how you will accomplish your objectives. A well-developed agenda has the meeting objectives written at the top, a start time, an end time, and a list of steps that will be taken to accomplish the objectives. Each step on the agenda must be clearly articulated, using verbs, so participants understand exactly what is expected during a particular step. For example, a poorly articulated agenda step might say something like “Marketing Plan.” This is vague and does not communicate the expected action. A better articulated agenda step might be written as “Review the Marketing Plan and Document Areas of Concern.”  This more clearly states what participants will be doing.

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