Would $30 billion in cost savings or added productivity make a difference to our lagging economy? It certainly would.
Consider this: Our nation could probably save that much simply by eliminating poorly run and unnecessary meetings.
Each day 11 million meetings take place in the United States, or 2.6 billion in a year. Based on an average salary of $30 per hour, the U.S. spends $80 billion on meetings each year.(In reality, the amount spent on meetings is much higher because most meetings involve more than two people.) Some research says that 37.5 percent of all meetings are considered “poorly run or unnecessary,” which would equal $30 billion a year of unproductive or poorly run meetings.
I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard “If I didn’t have to go to meetings, I’d like my job a lot more.” Research supports that notion.
Employees’ perception of meetings mirrors their overall job satisfaction.
Meetings have become the bane of business. How often have you left a meeting asking yourself: “What was the point of that? Why was I invited? Will any actions come from this meeting?”
Getting people to meetings can sometimes be tough. One company I worked with forced late arrivers to sing a song, essentially incentivizing promptness through embarrassment. Years ago the quality of food at Microsoft meetings determined how many people showed up. Essentially, the company was incentivizing attendance through food. There’s got to be a better way.
Because we avoid accountability, rely on tradition, buckle under office politics and lack facilitation skills, meetings have become “Corporate Sominex.”
Well-run meetings inspire engagement, drive decisions and produce accountability.
Here are sound ideas for how to make your meetings engaging and effective:
• Meeting preparation: Set goals for the meeting. This will determine the agenda and who should attend. Not a single decision is made in 65 percent of all meetings. So cancel them and rely on e-mail, Sharepoint or some other communication medium.
Give participants a role. Encourage them to brainstorm, help make a decision or provide feedback.
Distribute reading materials 48 hours prior to the meeting. Attach a standard agenda sheet that clarifies the reason for the meeting and its desired outcome and explains who’s asked to attend and why.
• During the meeting: Establish and follow the meeting code of conduct. Start by reviewing the anticipated outcomes and agenda. Rely on a facilitator to keep the discussion on track. Avoid PowerPoint presentations at all costs because they distract more then they engage.
Involve each participant in the discussion by calling out quieter individuals and limiting air time for those who easily dominate the conversation. Determine next-step actions by clarifying who “owns” the actions and when they are to be completed.
• After the meeting: Publish a list of action items and encourage “owners” of action items to schedule time in their calendar to complete their items. Eighty percent of the time in meetings is devoted to less than 20 percent of company’s long-term value. So, without having to lay people off or make major expense cuts, companies can see real improvement in productivity by making meetings more effective and engaging.
Dean Newlund is CEO of Mission Facilitators International Inc.