In a recent study, researchers estimated that companies could save $25,000 per employee per year by eliminating unnecessary meetings. For organizations with 5,000 employees, this could mean a yearly estimated savings of $10 million. Meetings have a cost and it’s not a trivial one. So why are so many of them terrible? And why aren’t we doing anything about it?
Having better meetings isn’t hard. To realize significantly better results, you just need to make small adjustments to what you do before, during, and after they happen. We’ve developed a simple framework for making meetings matter:
What happens before the meeting makes all the difference in the result. Taking a little extra time to plan for your meeting will ensure you are able to meet your objectives – and decrease the likelihood you’ll need to schedule yet another meeting. Clearly define why you need to meet (the purpose) and use it to determine who actually needs to attend. Send a clear agenda, including the purpose, provide a concise pre-read or discussion questions, and be clear on the role you’d like each person to play. This small investment of time will dramatically increase the ROI of your meeting.
Begin your meeting by framing your time together. Remind participants of the meeting’s purpose, and what you’re aiming to achieve. Then, actively facilitate the discussion toward that end. Ask genuinely curious questions, directly invite quieter participants into the conversation, and make connections between related ideas. Also, keep an eye out for meeting derailers: set up a parking lot for important but divergent issues / ideas that come up, and curb domineering voices to keep the conversation inclusive and on track.
If there’s only one thing you do to improve the impact of your meetings, make it this: draft and circulate a recap. Rather than an exhaustive set of meeting minutes that no one will read, capture the key decisions made, the necessary next steps, and who will ensure they’re completed, by when. After all, if no one remembers what you all decided, did your meeting even happen?
Yes, more careful planning, facilitation, and follow-through require extra time and effort from a knowledge workforce that is already largely overworked and suffering from burnout. But in the long run, it can mean fewer and higher quality meetings, leaving more time in the day to focus on other priorities. Now that’s valuable.