Cost effective meetings: 5 quick tips to improve your bottom line

It’s no exaggeration to say that running cost effective meetings is critical to the performance of your business.


Because meetings are time consuming and costly!

Research shared on TED shows that executives spend an average of 23 hours per week in meetings and about a third of those meetings are unnecessary or poorly run (I’m surprised that proportion isn’t higher!).

As a result, executives are wasting MONTHS of time each year.

Or put another way, if you’re that executive, you’re wasting YEARS of your life!

And you’re wasting hundreds of thousands of dollars too.

You can think of meetings as the cross-roads of productivity: they are where most of your time is spent on your most critical tasks. Make your meetings more cost effective, and your business benefits.

For me, take a look at our complete step-by-step guide to effective meetings.

First, calculate the cost of meetings

Calculating the cost of meetings only takes a few minutes and is a great way to dramatize the need for cost effective meetings.

The first step is to calculate the hourly cost of each meeting participant. This starts with a simple calculation: annual salary divided by the numbers of hours worked in a year.

Let’s assume an annual salary of US$100,000. The number of hours worked in a year, approximately 1,800. The cost per hour is $56.

Do the math for yourself and your team members.

The number will probably be higher than you imaged. But here’s the bad news, we’re not done yet.

Salary is only a fraction of the true cost. By the time you factor in benefits, taxes and other direct costs of employment, the true cost to the business is at least DOUBLE the figure you’ve just calculated.

Meetings with 8, 10 or even 20 participants? The total cost to the business can be huge.

Apply these 5 quick tips to improve your bottom line

5 tips might not sound like much, but applying these tips rigorously and you will soon be running more cost effective meetings.

Tip 1: Shorter meetings / greater focus

Sounds obvious, right? But let’s explore this for a moment.

When you open Outlook (and most other business calendars) 1 hour is the default setting for a meeting. Most of your meetings are 1 hour, right? How many of those 1 hour meetings could be completed in 40mins, or even 30mins? Or even 20 minutes?

Here’s a hint, Google ’10 minute meetings’ they’re getting a lot of attention.

Shorter meeting focus the mind, increase productivity and reduce waste.

Which brings us on to tip 2.

Tip 2: Make your agenda work for you

Everyone says “you have to have an agenda”, but most people don’t realize why. To run cost effective meetings an agenda is essential. It should include the topic AND the time available for each topic.

Then make disciplined use of your agenda by learning the art of tip 3.

Tip 3: Learn how to close out a topic

Everyone recognizes the importance of encouraging participation in a meeting. Of course, everyone in the meeting needs to add value.

The forgotten skill is how take all that input and effectively close out an agenda item.

Learn how to summarize the conversation, then use phrases like “would I be right to conclude that…”, and “is it fair to say that we’ve agreed…” to close out a topic and move on.

Tip 4 will also make this easier.

Tip 4: Use RACI to reduce participant numbers

Collaboration is great, up to a point. But don’t waste people’s time.

Use the RACI model as a guide (you probably already know that it stands for: Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed).

Too often people who need to be ‘Consulted’ or ‘Informed’ about a project are invited to all the meetings. (It seems rude not to, right?). It would be better use of their time to make effective notes and share them after the meeting. Those people who need to be informed can read them for reference, and those people who need to be consulted can provide their feedback by email.

I could even argue that those ‘Accountable’ shouldn’t be in the meeting either.  If they’re effectively managing those who are ‘Responsible’ there’s a clear project plan only need to be involved when the project moves off track.

Tip 5: Document the action

Meetings only have value if they drive action. In your agenda, be clear who the responsible person is for each topic.

As you close out the topic, ensure the responsible person agrees what has to be done, by whom, by when.

Ensure this is documented (even if nothing else is) and circulated after the meeting. Simple, effective, and often forgotten.

Your Takeaways

Cost effective meetings are critical to the performance of your business.

Meetings often cost more than we think they do, use a meeting calculator to see the true cost.

Apply these 5 tips to make sure you’re running cost effective meetings:

  1. Shorter meetings / greater focus
  2. Make your agenda work for you
  3. Learn how to close out a topic
  4. Use RACI to reduce participant numbers
  5. Document the action

Apply these tips rigorously and you will soon be running more cost effective meetings.