The Business Case for Making Your Meetings Matter

September 26, 2016

covermeetingAre you frustrated by all the time you waste in lousy, boring, unproductive meetings? Are you ready to do something about it?

Last week, in “Back to Basics: Making Your Meetings More Effective,” I described the only two ways you can enhance meeting productivity:

  • Improving outcomes – better decisions, more creative solutions, higher levels of participant engagement, strengthened working relationships, and happier participants;
  • Reducing costs – fewer meetings, shorter meetings, and more efficient meetings; leaving more time for people to get their own work done.

It really is that simple. Now it’s time to dig into those two objectives to identify specific tactics you can embrace right now to improve your ROI on meetings. We’ll focus today on Improving Outcomes, and devote next week’s post to Reducing Costs (although it’s actually artificial to separate these two strategies, as they usually go hand-in-hand).

Improving Outcomes

Here are three specific actions you can take to make your meetings both more productive and more popular.

1. Measure outcomes that matter

It’s trite but true: if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. Or, as I like to think of it: if you can’t see something you can’t change it. And you only see what you look for. So start tracking your meetings now by asking (and answering) these kinds of questions:

  1. How many person-hours a week does your organization spend in meetings?
  2. What does each meeting cost? (as I suggested last week, costs include the salaries of attendees, the cost of the meeting space, the costs of preparing for the meeting (mostly time), and any travel costs incurred by attendees)
  3. What specific outcomes (decisions, commitments to action, new insights, enhanced employee engagement or enthusiasm, problems solved, and so on) resulted from the meeting?
  4. Was the meeting efficient? Could the same outcomes have been produced in a shorter meeting, or in some other way that did not require a meeting?
  5. How do the meeting participants feel about the meeting? Are they satisfied? Or frustrated?

Measurement is without doubt the first and most important thing you can do to enhance your meetings. If you do nothing else, start paying attention to the specific outcomes your meetings produce, along with how much they cost. That’s the only way to determine the value of addressing and changing the way your meetings currently unfold.

I strongly recommend that you conduct a formal assessment of your organization’s meeting practices, and then look at the potential financial and emotional benefits of doing something to improve your meeting ROI. Next week I’ll offer a specific format for building the business case for change.

2. Apply the P4+ Model of Meeting Management

My book Making Meetings Matter includes four full chapters devoted to the P4+ model; it’s an explicit prescription for managing meetings effectively.P4+ Model

The model (depicted here) addresses five specific practices that I guarantee will improve your meeting outcomes: Purpose, Participants, Process, Place, and Preparation. You can read more about the model and those practices in several of my earlier posts, including these:

Making Meetings Matter: An Overview” (March 21 2016)

Making Every Meeting Matter: The First Step” (April 25, 2016)

10 Tips for Leading Meetings that Matter” (May 23, 2016)

In my simple-minded view, the one thing you should focus on first is to prepare an effective agenda for each meeting – and share it with all the participants in advance. That one action can have an incredibly profound impact on the quality of your meetings and their outcomes.

3. Conduct “After Action” Reviews (AARs)

The best way to improve meeting outcomes is to engage all the meeting participants in debriefing your meetings and adopting new practices based on their experience. As I’ve noted before, AARs are a form of organizational learning from experience.

When AARs are standard practice, meeting participants learn to be more self-aware and self-critical about their in-meeting behaviors; they pay more attention to what’s happening; and they often engage in self-correcting actions during the meeting itself.

Here is another post that goes into much more detail about After-Action Reviews as a form of intentional organization learning:

To Live is to Learn” (November 3, 2014)

In Conclusion

These three steps alone will improve your meeting ROI by an order of magnitude. And the even larger benefit is that they make meetings more visible to everyone in the organization.

Finally, once you understand how much lousy meetings are costing your organization, it’s going to be whole easier to justify investing in teaching your meeting leaders how to make better use of their two most expensive resources: their people and their peoples’ time.

For a longer exploration of what makes meetings matter and how to improve your meeting ROI, order a copy today 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 However, you should contact me directly for volume discounts).

Call me today (+1 510.558.1434) for a free exploratory conversation about how you can become a hero by improving your organization’s meeting ROI. Isn’t it time to upgrade the skillsets of all your meeting leaders?


Download "The Business Case for Making Your Meetings Matter" as a PDF

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Tricia Harris September 27, 2016 at 2:52 pm

Great post, Jim – especially the part about After Action Reviews. This is rarely discussed and yet very effective. When people can self-reflect and make the choice to change their behavior on their own, the changes are more likely to stick.


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