The Bottom Line: Meeting Mania

November 15, 2011
By Maryann Lawlor, SIGNAL Connections
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One look at any professional’s calendar illustrates just how much they must love meetings. After all, it’s a pretty good bet that there are meetings scheduled for Monday morning, late Tuesday afternoon, Wednesday at lunch and again at 3 p.m. Thursday looks open, but Friday has three meetings … morning, noon and night. Important information is disseminated during these gatherings, and the work sitting on their desks and computer screens couldn’t possibly be as important as the insights they’ll gain from their co-workers during a three-hour meeting, right?

Wrong. Unless the person who scheduled the get-together follows some common-sense rules, meetings not only waste valuable time, they also waste money. New math isn’t needed to figure out that if 10 people meet for three hours, and each makes a mere $15 an hour, that meeting just cost the organization a cool $450.

Today, meetings are even called to discuss meetings, but conferring on important business face-to-face—or even using conference calls—can be productive. At the core of effectiveness is respect for everyone’s time, and this is in the hands of the meeting organizer. Meetings should begin and end ON TIME.

Every meeting should have a specific objective: make a decision, plan a strategy or brainstorm ideas. Setting an agenda enables attendees to come prepared and keeps meetings on track with a goal in mind. In addition, an outline of topics facilitates priority setting.

Project management experts also recommend that meeting organizers set ground rules. Will electronic devices be allowed? Are all attendees expected to bring specific materials? Will this be a presentation or a discussion? Who will be responsible for taking notes during the gathering? Can attendees expect specific tasks to be assigned at the meeting? Who will follow up and when?

Every meeting should include time at the end for review of what has taken place with an eye toward improving future meetings. If staff members leave the room feeling—or worse yet saying—the gathering was a waste of time, it is unlikely they’ll look forward to—much less prepare for—the next one.

Common sense? Yes. But the bottom line is that too often these simple principles are overlooked and the bottom line really is the bottom line—the financial one. Perhaps that calls for a meeting.

Tell us about the most effective meetings you attend. And, if you’d like to know just how much those meetings are costing your organization, go to to use the Meeting Cost Clock. Or download the Time=Money app, and take it with you to your next meeting.
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