Your Boring Meeting Is Costing You a Lot of Money


Every meeting has costs and benefits. Successful organizations realize that while meetings are important, they can also be a waste of time and with it, a waste of money. Sometimes a lot of money. Not long ago I found myself in an all-day meeting with a group of 10 senior staff members of a church. We were together for almost 8 hours. That was not necessary. The meeting should have lasted 3 hours, and they only needed 4 of the 10 people there. Then I did something I had never done before, even in all my years of ministry. I tried to figure out just how much that meeting had cost the church in salaries alone. By my estimates those 8 hours cost around $4,000, not including my fees as well as lunch. How would we conduct meetings if we had a “money clock” running with a total cost for each minute cost on the wall? Here’s some strategies I like to use to keep from wasting money:

Your Boring Meeting is Costing You Money

Clear agenda and clear objectives. People need to know not only the subject of the meeting but what we want to get accomplish. Be specific: we want to have  a final time line and approve the budget.

Only the right people. Sometimes you need to bring the entire team together for a global reason. Way too often, however, people sit in meetings where only a very small part of the agenda pertains to them. Start with the agenda items relevant to everyone in the room and dismiss people as the discussion gets narrower.

A stand up meeting. Some decisions can be done quickly. A stand up meeting is a great way to bring a group together fast, get o the point and disband. For some reason sit down meetings are at least 30 minutes long. A stand up meeting usually lasts 5.

No verbal processing. Some leaders are verbal processors. They need to “talk it out” until they come to clarity. That’s ok, but don’t do it with your entire team unless you need specific input from them. It’s expensive and exhaustive. I’ve worked with leaders who were not as interested in their teams input as they were in talking through the issues themselves. You need to find a better outlet, if that’s how you’re wired.

What other strategies do you know to keep your meetings on track?

  • Great post, Maurilio. Way to put in terms that people can understand—money! I especially like, "No verbal processing." I think the flip side of that is realizing that some people need time alone to process information, which is just one more reason to split a behemoth meeting into a few shorter ones.

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  • Excellent post! Thanks!

  • I always set a limit on the length of a meeting and announce it in the meeting invitation, even when there are major decisions to be made.

    Good insight about verbal processing, though I agree with Geoff that some of that may be needed in order for a group to reach consensus.

  • I love the idea of a money clock!
    I'm a little too far down on the totem pole, right now, but I'm going to log this one away for future use. I can't tell you how many pointless meetings I've sat through wasting my time and company resources.

    Also, the stand up meeting idea is great. I want to try it soon.
    Thank you!

  • Just talking with a senior pastor about this very thing today. They have meeting after meeting and often seem to have meetings about meetings. It's a bit insane. Staff is so jammed up in meetings that they barely have any time left to implement what was discussed… and then everyone wonders why they feel so taxed and are unable to get the things done that they need to.

    Your antidote above is an excellent place to start.

  • Steve Shantz

    I saw your tweet during my third day of international Board, structure and strategy meetings. I shouldn't have but linked to the post even though I should have been paying attention. These were excellent meetings though, primarily since we followed all but one of the points above. We didn't do a standup meeting.

    Maurilio what are your thoughts on having attendees show up with only a notepad and pencil? How much are meetings negatively affected by the distraction of people checking Twitter, and Email instead of focusing on issues being discussed?

    • That's a tough one. I, for one, don't want to have to transfer my notes from a notepad to my computer. It's twice the work. I also hate when people are doing everything else besides paying attention at the meetings. I would ask people to check their social media and email during the breaks and focus on the meeting.

      Also if you make the meeting dynamic and to the point, you're more likely to get people to stay engaged in the conversation. This is really is difficult one.

  • Joseph

    The only other thing I can think of is at the "right time".

    So often, we schedule based on what is convenient for us personally instead of what is convenient for the market and meetings land at busy times thus distracting the sales force.

  • As always, you've killed it. Love these tips.

    I've found that giving everyone in the room (assuming you've got only the necessary people there) 1 or 2 minutes in the beginning to say whats on their mind concerning the topic if the meeting makes for more attentive people after that. Sometimes folks are just burning to have their quick say and this kind of avoids that.

    You have to be brutal about holding the opening statements to 1 or 2 minutes though.

  • lon

    LOVE the stand up meeting idea. Simple concept that totally discourages the usual meeting meanderings.

  • It has always helped me to set an end time for the meeting. If it is known up front just how finite the meeting time is, the participants seem to have more respect for the time being used.

    • Sometimes I'll say, we need to figure this out in 30 minutes or less. It's amazing how we do it. If we had 3 hours we would use all 3 hours and get to the same conclusion.

  • Time management is critical. Good point. If you don't stick to it, you can waste a lot of time with trivial, meaningless chat.

  • Great post…
    I hate meetings that have no real purpose and fail to help the team get on the same page.
    I love meetings that have been well planned and communicate vision and rally the team to get things done.

  • Nyatka

    I used to hate meetings until our manager signed up the whole team for yaM. What a great software. No hassle at all. Thank you, yaM!

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