I was in a board meeting recently with 15 professionals who were volunteering their time to the betterment of their city. There was no agenda for this meeting. We were there for 2.5 hours. It was an expensive investment with few outcomes.
Expensive, you ask? Yes. Every meeting has a monetary value. It is the average hourly rate of all the participants multiplied by the length of the meeting. I estimate that the cost of the above-mentioned gathering was around $5,700.
Most successful organizations budget their money meticulously. Almost every dollar is accounted for. Yet, company decision-makers will “spend” thousands of dollars a day on meetings with little thought for the return on investment (ROI).
If you are a decision-maker, it is imperative to practice good meeting management techniques. You likely know what these things are already. A rule of thumb is that if you wouldn’t want to attend one of your meetings, others wouldn’t want to be there either. See the list below for some warning signs that your meeting will have a low ROI.
Ten signs you should cancel a meeting:
- The meeting is being held because “that’s the way we’ve always done it”
- There are no decisions that need to be made
- You don’t really know who will show up
- The outcomes are undetermined and unpredictable
- There was zero prep work for anybody for the meeting
- It is an information-only or roundtable-type meeting
- No one is assigned to take and distribute meeting notes
- You haven’t communicated the meeting expectations to the participants
- You look for agenda items and don’t come up with anything of substance
- The only reason you are having it is because it is already on your calendar
Cancelling a meeting due to any of the reasons above requires setting aside your fear of looking disorganized. It’s hard to admit defeat. However, we’ve all been in situations where a facilitator looks even more ineffective by plowing forward with a meeting that should not have happened in the first place. So, don’t ignore the warning signs.
Once you have taken a deep breath and cancelled a meeting, the next step is to think about what you need to do differently going forward. Does the meeting need to be restructured or removed permanently? Think about the expense of the meeting, the anticipated outcomes, and budget for time just like you budget for money.
Steven, the COO of a company, held “roundtable” meetings with his team monthly. Everybody hated them. In this video, Dr. Melissa Gratias describes how she advised her client to: (1) write purpose statements for the meeting, (2) assign accountabilities, and (3) follow-up appropriately.