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How To Run Meetings That Are Actually Cost-Effective

How To Run Meetings That Are Actually Cost-Effective

With Shopify’s new meeting cost calculator and Zoom debuting its short video clip feature, meeting costs are at the top of managers’ minds, and for good reason. Business professionals are now, more than ever, fixated on what we know for a fact: that meetings are costly. However, what isn’t being analyzed and appreciated enough are the benefits of meetings that far outweigh the costs. 

For companies that experience more cost than reward, there are ways to run more efficient meetings that will save time and money while boosting benefits for employees.

To run meetings that are actually cost-effective, we just have to know where to minimize, where to maximize, and how to implement changes.

What Are The Major Costs?

Let’s get into the different costs that come with meetings. First, there is employee time. We can tag a dollar value to this cost by calculating how many hours employees spend in meetings and multiplying it by their hourly pay. Some teams find it better to put employee time into the calculation of products unsold. By recognizing how many products/services we would need to sell in order to fund our meetings, our costs become very real very quickly. 

We also need to consider managers’ time in the cost calculation. While in meetings, managers have less time to complete their work. Also, preparing and facilitating the meetings east up more valuable time. This means managers spend more time focused on meetings than their employees, who need the information and meeting the most.

GettaMeeting provides comprehensive meeting modules that require no prep for facilitators. Head to our modules page to learn more.

More of a hidden cost of meetings, but a substantial one nonetheless, is productivity loss. When we attend meetings, we break the concentration and flow that we accumulate as the day progresses. It takes about 24 minutes to recover from a loss of focus, so If we attend multiple meetings a day, our productivity can plummet.

Why Not Eliminate Meetings Altogether or Drastically Decrease The Number of Meetings?

After we’ve determined what our team truly needs from a meeting, decreasing the number of expensive meetings or eliminating wasteful meetings is sometimes necessary. However, eliminating all or many meetings destroys the value created by them. Your team dynamic would suffer, information would fall through the cracks, and workplace morale would drop significantly.

The value of meetings

Engagement. Meetings provide ample opportunity for high engagement. Facilitators can host activities and ask questions during meetings that interest and motivate employees. Indicators of engaged employees in meetings can look like active listening, participation, feedback, and collaboration in group activities.

When employees are engaged at work they’re more productive, customer satisfaction increases, employees stay longer, and everyone is happier and healthier.

Without meetings, employees would not have a chance to be actively engaged and would instead lose motivation without the help of meetings to boost employees’ interest in their work.

Team building. A meeting is a perfect setting for team building activities. Hosting team building activities brings so many benefits to your team, including solving the problem of engagement (if there is one). Team dynamics suffer when we skip team building during meetings; the value it brings is substantial and imperative to a positive and healthy work environment.

Break from daily routine. We all need breaks from our projects and typical tasks to allow our brains to be challenged in new ways and to avoid burnout. Meetings help us do just that.

Innovative collaboration. Meetings allow for unique collaboration that is less regulated and less constrained. Meetings, of course, should be kept on track and on topic, yet there are great opportunities for innovative thinking that makes for incredible collaboration. With everyone’s focus on the meeting and team members engaged with the issues at hand, meetings create a space where this innovative collaboration can thrive and lead to real progress and promising decision-making.

Feedback. To find room for improvement in your business, meetings are the time to ask employees what is working and what is not. Feedback sessions like these help strengthen employee relationships and allow the team to build a more trusting, thoughtful, and respectful relationship with leadership.

Re-establish your mission. Teams become more cohesive and motivated to strive toward a shared goal when they meet in person to discuss their goals, obstacles, and plan of attack.

Misconceptions

The costs of meetings are very real, yet there are some misconceptions about meetings that are important to address as we work toward facilitating more cost-effective meetings:

  1. Calculator tools that translate meetings into employee pay are not accurate. For example, the Shopify calculator that allows leaders to send meeting invites to employees with the cost of their time included does not accurately depict the meeting cost for individuals who attend. The tool estimates employee compensation which is not adaptable to different roles, teams, and organizations.
  2. Most meetings cannot be replaced by an email. Meeting in person is helpful in retaining information whereas email communicates much less to employees. Ideas, questions, brainstorming, and feedback are much less likely to make it to managers and leaders through email. Meetings in-person, even if short and sweet, convey important content to team members that are much more likely to be retained. Vital social cues are also missed in emails as 93 percent of communication effectiveness is determined by nonverbal cues. Plus, team members miss out on connecting with their colleagues and taking a necessary break.

Decreasing Costs

Let’s consider a strategy we can adopt to truly drive down meeting costs. One way is to minimize inefficiencies or processes that cost more than they are worth. Another way is to maximize current processes to better the outcome of meetings, making our investment in them more valuable. When we both minimize and maximize, our meetings become incredibly efficient, effective, and worth more than what we invest in them.

What to minimize

  • Topics and information that can actually be in an email. If the information does not require ultra-engaged employees, collaboration, or input/feedback, maybe it is not an appropriate topic to discuss during the meeting. Save these topics for weekly emails or add them to summary emails sent to participants after meetings. This saves precious time in meetings and keeps employees engaged on topics that they can contribute to.
  • Talking points. Meeting facilitators can replace talking points with questions. By making this simple change, the feeling of meetings changes from a lecture to a collaborative environment where attendees are more likely to participate and problem-solve together.
  • Activities that are not categorized under team dynamics, problem-solving, or important information relay. This one is self-explanatory. If your meeting agenda includes topics unrelated to important new information, team building, or problem-solving, it probably doesn’t need too much attention at your meeting. Minimizing activities that don’t contribute to your goals is likely going to appeal to employees as they will feel their time is being honored.
  • Attendees. According to entrepreneur.com, 83% of employees accept meeting invitations but 31% want to decline. 14% do decline, yet many folks who do attend feel “frustrated” or “annoyed.” Are some employees not necessary for the meeting at hand? Don’t invite them! Alternatively, give them the autonomy to choose whether or not they want to attend. Non-essential participants might have commitments that take precedence over the optional meeting and therefore should have the choice to attend if even invited. Believe me, for once they will appreciate not being invited to something!
  • Rabbit trails (going off-topic). Keeping the objective of the meeting at the center of attention limits deviation from the purpose of getting together as a team. You can help steer the conversation by asking follow-up questions that are on the right track and by asking questions related to the objective to get folks back on track (and back on time).
  • Distractions and multitasking. Meetings become ineffective as soon as participants start checking their emails, responding to direct messages, starting side conversations, and indulging in other distractions. Facilitators should urge attendees to stay focused and avoid distractions so that everyone’s time is respected and the information is properly comprehended.
  • Disengagement. Let’s face it, keeping employees engaged for an entire meeting is a tough job. It’s in our nature to give in to distractions and it’s difficult to focus when we’ve been sitting all day long. It’s so important to minimize disengagement so that our employees hear, process, and respond to the information and issues we spend valuable time preparing to present. 

To keep employees engaged, we have to first make our expectations known. What kind of contributions do you want to see? How will you ask people to participate? What happens after people contribute? Let participants know what you’re looking for so that they can fulfill those expectations.

What to maximize

Onto what we can maximize to host cost-effective meetings:

  • Time. Okay, duh. But really - we can maximize our time by pursuing multiple objectives that serve our different needs. This does not mean multi-tasking, but having a diverse agenda that includes topics related to team building, information, problem-solving, etc. Utilizing our time in this way does require more preparation, however.
  • Feedback for data about your processes. Similar to minimizing disengagement, maximizing feedback motivates team members to participate and take a greater interest in the meeting. This in turn helps teams retain new information while giving management guidance as to what can be improved by the next meeting. Spending some time during the meeting to ask for feedback pays off in the long run.
  • Meeting notes. If you send out meeting notes following every meeting, they can help maximize the impact of the meeting. Taking and distributing quality and thorough notes with assigned action items makes a huge difference for those who attended the meeting and for those who missed it.
  • Objectives. Having clear objectives for your meeting is essential to its success. With muddy objectives, the meeting drags on with no clear direction. You can include these objectives with the meeting notes and action items in a brief follow-up email. Informing participants of the objectives prior to the meeting as well gives attendees a chance to mentally prepare for the meeting and show up ready.
  • Brainstorming. Typical ideation as a group is not time-efficient or effective. Brainstorming is biased in nature as team members doubt their contributions while others discuss their own ideas. We do not receive everyone’s unique perspectives and ideas this way. Alternatively, we can maximize brainstorming and increase inclusion by giving participants a short amount of time to brainstorm individually before sharing and discussing with the group. This helps us avoid long stretches of silence as people consider participating and instead encourages the consideration of everyone’s ideas. 

Will My Business Suffer From the Changes I Make?

Nope, it will only bring benefits. Decreasing meeting costs increases profits, frees up time, improves workplace efficiency, reduces the number of resources necessary to run an effective meeting, boosts morale, and more.

Go too far and, sure, your team dynamics and processes will suffer. Going from seven meetings a week to one might affect your team and the relationships they’ve been building during those meetings. Drastically changing that dynamic can stunt collaboration, problem-solving efforts, and innovation.

Tips and tricks

Let’s conclude with a few tips and tricks to keep in mind as you work toward making meetings more cost-effective.

The success of meetings is dependent on your team dynamic and your peers’ needs, along with your organization’s obligations. Customizing meetings to tailor fit your team takes time, practice, and experience, so be patient yet persistent. Maximizing feedback is important here to get multiple opinions and perspectives on your new meeting models.

A meeting is only as good as its preparation. If you walk into a meeting with the intention of maximizing your time but have no clear agenda or expectations for participants, the meeting will absolutely fall flat. 

If preparation is a time sucker for you, GettaMeeting has ready-made meetings available to download at the click of a button that requires zero prep. Check out the different meeting modules here.

Be strategic about how you schedule meetings. Consider investing some time into finding the best time slot for your employees to meet. If you schedule a meeting that works for some but interrupts many employees’ flow, it isn’t the best time. Prioritizing the schedules of team members who must attend the meeting before those that are not required can help narrow down the time frame.

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