Making Your Meetings Better: The Business Case for a Fix

October 17, 2016

What is it worth to make your meetings both more efficient and more effective?

As I have been suggesting for the past several weeks, meetings can be improved in many different ways, both by reducing their costs (fewer meetings, shorter meetings, fewer participants, smaller conference rooms, and relying more on virtual meetings), and by improving their outcomes (crisper decisions, more explicit commitments to action, more active follow-up and feedback).

In the course of thinking through how meetings work, how they unfold, and what it takes to improve them, I’ve developed a formal “Meetings Quality Assessment” or a “MQA”, as well as a “Meetings ROI” formula (M-ROI). I’ve also clarified what kinds of actions can increase your MQA score or produce a positive M-ROI.

Let’s consider a hypothetical example

Imagine this: a team of 10 well-paid professionals holds a one-hour status/progress meeting every Monday. In addition, there are four 5-person sub-teams that typically meet for a total of about 8 hours each over the course of a typical week.

Total team hours in meetings: 170 hours per week (a bit under 50% of the team’s total weekly work hours).

At an average fully loaded salary cost of $120,000 per person, those 170 hours translate into an organizational cost of $530,400 per year (170 hours/week x $60/hour x 52 weeks). And that cost doesn’t include any time or cost for meeting preparation, conference rooms, technology support, or participant travel time or expense.

Now, if you develop a meetings leadership training program that enables you to make those meetings just 10% more efficient, that’s a potential cost reduction of over $53,000, without factoring in the value of improved decisions, increased staff engagement, or the impact of reduced meeting time on the team members’ other responsibilities.

If your training program costs $20,000 to design and deliver (which feels extravagant) and requires each of the 10 team members to attend a one-day workshop on meeting leadership, the total investment required to achieve that $53,000 annual cost reduction would be about $25,000 (8 hours of time for each of 10 team members at $60/hour is $4800 in addition to the $20,000 design and delivery cost).

That then translates into a training program ROI of something like 212%! ($53,000 divided by $25,000). Is it worth investing $25,000 to achieve a cost reduction of over $500,000? You tell me.

bigstock-business-money-finance-peop-cropped-99634541 Granted, this is a hypothetical example, but it feels like an incredibly low-risk, high-reward proposition. And it’s only considering meeting efficiency improvements. I haven’t even attempted to estimate the value of better decisions, enhanced employee engagement (and potentially lower staff turnover), and other benefits from meetings that really do matter.

If I am even halfway accurate with this analysis, what are you waiting for? Meetings consume an incredible amount of organizational resources and they are almost universally panned. Yet “fixing” them is relatively easy and incredibly valuable.

What am I missing? What kind of organizational inertia and/or blindness encourages team leaders to ignore the obvious opportunity to improve their teams’ effectiveness and productivity by making all their meetings better?

I welcome your comments and suggestions.

[Note: the original version of this article included an incorrect calculation of the ROI of a meetings improvement training program. It has been corrected above: a hypothetical training program that reduces annual meeting costs by $53,000 while costing $25,000 to design and deliver would have a 212% ROI in the first year (it would also have about a six-month payback).]


For a longer exploration of what makes meetings matter and how to make all those meetings both productive and popular, order a copy of my most recent book, Making Meetings Matter: How Smart Leaders Orchestrate Powerful Conversations in the Digital Age (link is to the book’s page on Amazon.com. However, you should contact me directly for volume discounts).


And call me today (+1 510.558.1434) for a free exploratory conversation about how you can become a hero by developing a program to improve your organization’s meeting ROI. Isn’t it time to upgrade the quality and the efficiency of all your meetings?

Download "Making Your Meetings Better: The Business Case for a Fix" as a PDF

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