If you ask yourself how much time you have spent in meetings that do not lead to actionable outcomes, you will probably conclude that most of it was a waste of time for your small business. However, it does not have to be that way. Meetings can be a valuable use of time, but only if they are run efficiently and effectively.
Costs of Meetings
First let’s look at what a typical meeting costs per hour (not taking into consideration travel etc:
- Senior management: $1,050 per hour
- Manager meeting: $300 per hour
- Sales team meeting: $340 per hour
Just imagine if you can save a few hours on meetings each week in your company, you can easily save hundreds to thousands of dollars per week. Calculate the costs of your meetings.
So how can you make your meetings more effective and save money and time?
Prepare an Agenda
Have you ever heard the old adage that failing to plan is planning to fail? This is as true of business meetings as anything else. If there is no preparation for the meeting in advance then participants show up without an understanding of what the meeting is about and without having adequately prepared for it. Worse, they may not even understand why they need to attend at all, and this may lead to them not bothering to show up. Failing to plan effectively for a meeting is a good way to ensure a disorganized shambles of a meeting that will surely waste a lot of time for all of the participants.
The solution is simple: make and share an agenda with meeting participants. When participants know what to expect from a meeting they are better able to be prepared for it. That does not necessarily mean that they will, of course, but you have a lot more chance if you give them the information to be able to do so. Let people know what the meeting will cover, what you expect from them and the expected outcomes, for a more successful meeting. It is your responsibility to make sure everyone is indeed prepared.
Stay on Track
One of the situations that many people detest about meetings is when there is a clear agenda and goals and yet participants are still allowed to go off track and discuss irrelevant topics for great lengths. This is again a waste of time and money for your business, as it does not help with solving the issues that you are there to discuss.
Related Article: Don’t Waste Time in Meetings!
Sometimes it can be all too easy to get pulled along into chatter about some issue that seems more interesting but is only marginally relevant at best. Worse, a poorly run meeting can degrade into a gossip session, which is really inappropriate. Assigning a chair for the meeting who has the gravitas to tell people to stop when they go off track avoids this problem with your meetings. This chairman/woman might very well be you!
Document Actions through Minutes
Most people at meetings don’t write actions down. That means that few people do what they actually agreed to do, and everyone ends up in the same meeting again a couple of weeks later, discussing the same problems. The cause of this problem is not taking minutes that list the actions that participants agreed to. This makes it all too easy for people to be able to say “I forgot,” or, “I didn’t agree to do that,” even if you remember that they did. Taking minutes and documenting the actions within these minutes means that meeting actions can be followed up on.
Follow Up on Actions
Failure to follow up on these tasks is also a failure to run meetings effectively. That is because it is still easy for people to “forget” by not actually reading the meeting minutes. Meeting minutes can be used as a checklist to see what meeting participants did and what is still outstanding. With the minutes in hand it is easy to go through and contact the relevant parties that agreed to take actions on board and chase them up.
Try implementing these simple steps to your meetings and you will quickly see how they transform from a waste of energy to productively spent time that solves problems.
Author: Paula Newton is a consultant and business writer who has spent far too much of her life in ineffective meetings. Now she specializes in helping others to run meetings that are efficient and effective and that meet goals, saving everyone time. Together with the rest of MeetingKing team she is working hard to make the world a better place… one meeting at the time!
Published: December 18, 2014