How much do your meetings cost you?

Cover image
business team having a meeting

Meetings can be useful for solving problems, making decisions or building trust. Unfortunately, when they’re not organized well, meetings can drag on far longer than necessary, meander off-topic or have no purpose.

Sometimes, meetings include people who don’t have to be there – or who shouldn’t be there. Then there are meetings where people show up unprepared, or the ones where participants leave and think, well, that did not require a meeting to figure out.

What is the cost of a poorly planned meeting?

Meetings take up a significant part of our work time. It’s frustrating to attend meetings that feel like a waste of time, but it’s also squandering organizational dollars.

To estimate this cost, we have a helpful meeting cost calculator on our website. Simply enter the following information:

  • duration of the meeting (in minutes)
  • number of participants
  • average annual salary of participants (in thousands)
  • incidental costs related to the meeting

Once you’ve entered this information, click calculate for an estimated cost of your meeting. While an effective and productive meeting is worth the investment, you’ll see how much money is wasted on a meeting that is not useful.

In many workplaces, meetings take up a significant part of work time. If you want to ensure you aren’t wasting that time and organizational money, you need to put some thought into the meetings you hold. Here are a few things to consider.

When to Call a Meeting

Not every decision or issue requires a meeting. Ask yourself:

  • Could this be handled with a phone call or email?
  • Would an online poll get the required feedback more efficiently?
  • Could I get my answer by using an instant messaging platform instead?
  • Would using project managements software help track progress reduce the need for status meetings?

Reserve calling in-person or virtual meetings for times when you need a group to make a decision, contribute to solving a problem, or arrange roles for a project. In these situations, call the meeting when everyone has time to prepare adequately and when everyone who needs to be there can attend.

Who to Include in Your Meeting

Successful meetings involve the right number of the right people to achieve a common goal. Participants who should be invited include:

  • key decision-makers
  • people with the needed knowledge
  • people who need to know the information
  • people who must commit to, take a stake in or play a role in the decisions
  • anyone who needs to implement and act on the decisions

The size of the group depends on what needs to happen. For example, solving problems may require a larger group  of participants with a range of knowledge whereas making a specific decision requires fewer.

Ideal Meeting Length

Consider the purpose of the meeting, what needs to be accomplished and what availability the participants have. Quick decisions may only require 15 to 30 minutes while strategic planning might need a couple of hours.

If a meeting requires more than a couple of hours, consider breaking the meeting up into a series of smaller meetings. Not only are shorter meetings generally easier for people with busy schedules to attend, but they are also less tiring than half-day or full-day meetings. It’s also easier for participants to stay sharp and focused when discussing ideas.

Keep Meetings Focused and Productive

Your participants want assurance there will be action and closure from their meetings. Have an agenda for each meeting that clearly explains the purpose. It should also indicate who is responsible for each agenda item and how much time is allocated to discussing it. Distribute the agenda to the group ahead of time so that participants can provide feedback or additional agenda items in advance of the meeting.

To make sure this happens, you need a strong chair or facilitator in charge of planning and leading meetings. It’s useful to have a separate person act as a timekeeper to keep everyone working through the agenda items within the allotted time. Assign a note taker to record accurate and timely minutes that capture decisions and action items. Following these meeting management tips will ensure effective communication, engagement and collaboration among participants. It will also save time, reduce unnecessary meetings and enhance overall team satisfaction and morale.

Marie Antaya avatar

By Marie Antaya, CTDP

Author of The Eclectic Writing Series.