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How to reduce the length and cost of meetings

meetingThere really is nothing more draining on the soul than an overly long meeting. With unrelated questions being asked that prolong the agony, sitting for hours on end in a meeting that produces nothing of value is a waste of everyoneโ€™s time. And of course the cost of meetings is a hidden – but real – one.

And yet, businesses seem to be blighted with meeting after meeting. Diaries on desks in every corner of the country list one meeting after another. There comes a time, however, when the effectiveness of these meetings needs to be assessed.

Although some meetings are essential, streamlining them and working to a time limit can be revolutionary in producing the results that you want. But what is the real cost of longer meetings? And why should businesses seek to avoid them?

Tick-tock – The length of meetings matters!

Long meetings are a waste of many resources but the one with the biggest impact is time. Think about the run-of-the-mill meeting at your business โ€“ how many people are involved and for how many hours?

Combine these two factors to give you a figure in hours and then put a cost on this with an average rate of pay for those involved. Compare this cost of meetings with the actual productivity that came from the meeting. How much has that meeting moved a project or business forward?

For an overly long meeting, the return of investment can be very low. There are very few other parts of business where this would be allowed to continue unabated and unchallenged. If long meetings are costing a business money, why are they still the norm?

Meeting management

A meeting, in order for it to run smoothly, needs a strong leader at the helm. This chairperson needs to have the ability to bring a meeting back to its original focus if it wanders too far from its topic. That said, you also need a chairperson who understands that there are times when the meeting does need to diverge.

Setting an agenda is one part of the equation; setting the start and end point of a meeting is another.

Meeting preparation is fundamental

Agendas are all well and good but if the agenda is long and over-stuffed with topics, the danger is that the meeting becomes overly long and off target.

Making sure that preparation is done beforehand is key. If there are papers and documents for attendees to consider prior to the meeting, they should be circulated well in advance. Set a cut-off date by which all meeting material must be received in order that it can be distributed centrally. It also needs to be made clear to attendees that they need to ensure they read and digest all this information prior to the meeting.

Planning and being concise reduces the cost of meetings

Bringing a group of people together should be mutually beneficial. In order for this to be the case, information must be disseminated beforehand, a running order or agenda in place and timings established. If the meeting needs more time, or needs to run on, consider re-scheduling or, in some cases decreasing the personnel who need to be involved in the run-on.

Learning to have brief, concise and effective meetings is possible.But it needs clear thinking, proper management and, in some cases, a challenge to the existing company culture.

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