A productive (and pithy) meeting can leave attendees feeling refreshed and ready to roll, while an unproductive meeting is likely to leave most attendees with a headache. The real cost of bad meetings is staggering: $37 billion dollars are wasted every year in the U.S. on useless meetings.
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Here are three actionable tips for ensuring that your meetings stay on track:
Have you ever sat in a meeting that droned on well after it was scheduled to end? Long meetings cost money. At first, an hour meeting may not seem like a big deal. But consider the hourly salary of everyone in the room, and add it up. If the average employee makes $20 per hour, and twenty people attend a one-hour meeting, that meeting just cost you $400. Double that meeting time (or factor in the salary of senior management, who according to one study are already spending 50% of their time in meetings) and you can begin to understand the true cost of unproductive meetings.
When Jake Knapp, of Google Ventures, noticed that his son’s first-grade class used a timer to keep the kids on track, a lightbulb went off in his head. “I figured what worked for small children would probably work well for CEOs, too” he said. And it did. Knapp set a timer for 30 minutes during meetings to make sure they didn’t run over. As it turned out, having a physical timer in the room helped the team stick to the agenda.
A clear agenda, with a fixed objective, is the easiest way to ensure that your meeting stays on track. Before you book a conference room, sit down and write down the purpose of your meeting, and attach a clear goal. Then write down each talking point, along with the team member who should contribute the resolution of this objective.
Another cause for ballooning costs related to meetings? Too many attendees. It’s estimated that 31 hours a month are spent in unproductive meetings, and 91% of meeting guests admitted to daydreaming through them.
Steve Jobs ran his meetings like a well-oiled machine, and he was notorious for kicking out attendees who didn’t need to be there. If someone doesn’t have something to contribute to your objective, they shouldn’t be in the room.
If you’re starting your own small business or start-up, it’s essential to spend your money — and your time — wisely. If you’re unsure whether or not you should host a meeting, use this fun flowchart below to decide, or skip forward to read some startling statistics about how unproductive meetings could burn through your company cash.
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Meredith Wood is the founding editor of the Fundera Ledger and a GM at NerdWallet.
Meredith launched the Fundera Ledger in 2014. She has specialized in financial advice for small business owners for almost a decade. Meredith is frequently sought out for her expertise in small business lending and financial management.