Over the last several weeks I have been exploring several basic ways to improve your organizational ROI for meetings.
Last week I talked about two complementary approaches to improving meeting efficiency:
- Holding fewer meetings
- Conducting shorter meetings
(See “The Business Case for Making Your Meetings Matter (Part 3)” for details).
Today I am focusing on how distributed meetings can reduce costs in dramatic ways. I then conclude by proposing an integrated, three-phase approach for jacking up that ROI.
Reducing Costs: Let Me Count the Ways
There are many kinds of savings that come from greater use of distributed meetings. Note that some of these benefits accrue to organizations, some to individuals, and some to society more broadly.
- Save time for meeting participants; they can attend the meeting from anywhere, including their primary workspace or a home office;
- Reduce participants’ cost of traveling to the meeting (including local commute costs if they join a meeting from home, or the larger expense of traveling to a different city, or across town to be present for a meeting at a different location);
- Reduce greenhouse gasses because of reduced travel;
- Reduce the number of vehicles on the road, cutting down on traffic congestion; and
- Get more done, because distributed meetings are almost always more task-focused than in-person meetings (sometimes too much so, but that is a different issue).
And if your organization adopts a significant workforce mobility or alternative workplace program, there are many more potential savings:
- A smaller office footprint and facilities costs through desk-sharing or free-address policies;
- Lower lighting, heating. and air conditioning costs because on average there are fewer people in the workplace;
- Reduced need for parking lot space (at least for businesses located where parking is important;
- Reduced technology costs (because mobile workers actually need less support technology than in-office counterparts);
- Reduced management overhead (because self-directed mobile workers learn to operate effectively with less management oversight, enabling organizations to increase the average span of control).
Jacking Up That ROI
Developing a complete meeting improvement return on investment is, in short, complex. However, it is mostly a matter of thinking through the wide range of benefits that come out of a concerted effort to upgrade the way your meetings are planned, designed, and led.
And what does it cost to achieve that kind of improvement? That depends on how ambitious you are; but be sure to follow this path in sequence – walk before you run, and run before you transform. And remember, you get what you pay for.
Level One: Walking
- Conduct a simple assessment (even just a survey of staff and leaders to determine where the major improvement opportunities lie
- Design and conduct a basic leadership development program focused on meetings – including attention to both skillsets and mindsets
- Measure meeting effectiveness and participant satisfaction to determine whether the development program has had an impact.
Level Two: Running
- Identify the meeting leadership Best Practices that have the most impact
- Launch a continuous improvement program by feeding that best practices information back to the organization; and
- Conduct follow-up leadership development programs to spread the word and bake in those best practices
Level Three: Transforming
- Identify the potential benefits from adopting an organization-wide workforce mobility or work-from-home program (including workplace redesign to reduce the footprint and other facilities and technology expenses)
- Build the business case for mobility/flexibility
- Just do it (much easier said than done!)
I am currently designing a formal meeting quality assessment and leadership development program; if you are interested in contributing to this effort (and benefiting from it), by all means contact me today.
Let’s work together not just to make all our meetings matter, but to make them better.
Note: my early analysis and practical experience suggests that the ROI of “fixing” your meetings can be staggeringly high. I can’t think of any other management improvement activities that have as much potential for a positive ROI.
For a longer exploration of what makes meetings matter and how to improve meeting effectiveness, 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 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 improving your organization’s meeting ROI. Isn’t it time to upgrade the quality and the efficiency of all your meetings?