Last time, we examined some foundational costs of meetings — invitations, the facility, and transport to and from. Let's now examine preparation activities. They aren't free, and some aren't cheap.
- When we reschedule meetings not yet held, we might poll the attendees, who must then respond to the poll. Some might have to reschedule commitments of their own to attend the newly rescheduled meeting. A cascade of little tasks can form, and since it potentially affects all attendees, its cost can be significant, though we rarely measure it or even estimate it.
- Publishing minutes and podcasts
- At first, one might think that there's a significant cost for reading minutes, because everyone has to do it. But hardly anybody reads minutes. On the other hand, someone does take minutes, writes them up, and posts them. And if there's a podcast, someone has to do that. Because scribing is usually a one-person job, we think of it as low-cost. But we lose access to this person's contributions during the meeting, because it's difficult to take minutes and participate fully. That lost access can have expensive consequences.
- Preparing the agenda
- You can save time on preparing agendas by not having them, but the cost is enormous, because meetings take longer and accomplish less — much of it wrong. So you have to do an agenda, but you can save time by not asking anyone for contributions. Nah, that doesn't work so well either, because meeting participants together compile agendas better than any one person can alone. So you end up having to poll people for contributions, and whenever you need to involve everyone in anything, costs climb. The costs in this case are worth it. They're just not zero. Really not zero.
- Preparing introductions
- Some meetings begin with rounds of introductions. Some skip the introductions, but instead circulate bios of attendees. Both approaches take time. For oral intros, attendees must plan what they'll say. Rescheduling a meeting triggers a
cascade of little tasks, whose
total cost can be significantFor written bios, attendees must write them, and someone has to compile them or provide a place where they can be posted. For recorded intros, attendees must plan, write, and deliver them. Some will even rehearse. It all takes time, and since everyone gets involved, the time taken can be significant.
- Distributing materials
- If materials accompany the meeting, the time to prepare them is usually accounted for. But the time to assemble them into distribution packages and get them delivered might not be. Such efforts usually get allocated to a bulk account that covers many different groups, if they are accounted for at all. The more often you meet, the more of these tasks you have. Find a way to meet less often.
Do you spend your days scurrying from meeting to meeting? Do you ever wonder if all these meetings are really necessary? (They aren't) Or whether there isn't some better way to get this work done? (There is) Read 101 Tips for Effective Meetings to learn how to make meetings much more productive and less stressful — and a lot more rare. Order Now!
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More articles on Effective Meetings:
- Games for Meetings: III
- We spend a lot of time and emotional energy in meetings, much of it engaged in any of dozens of ritualized
games. Here's Part III of a little catalog of some of our favorites, and what we could do about them.
- What Makes a Good Question?
- In group discussion or group problem solving, many of us focus on being the first one to provide the
answer. The right answer can be good; but often, the right question can be better.
- Remote Facilitation in Synchronous Contexts: II
- Facilitators of synchronous distributed meetings — meetings that occur in real time, via telephone
or video — encounter problems that facilitators of face-to-face meetings do not. Here's Part II
of a little catalog of those problems, and some suggestions for addressing them.
- The Perils of Piecemeal Analysis: Group Dynamics
- When a team relies on group discussion alone to evaluate proposals for the latest show-stopping near-disaster,
it exposes itself to the risk that perfectly sound proposals might be inappropriately rejected. The
source of some of this risk is the nature of group discussion.
- When the Chair Is a Bully: III
- When the chair of the meeting is so dominant that attendees withhold comments or slant contributions
to please the chair, meeting output is at risk of corruption. Because chairs usually can retaliate against
attendees who aren't "cooperative," this problem is difficult to address. Here's Part III
of our exploration of the problem of bully chairs.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming July 8: Multi-Expert Consensus
- Some working groups consist of experts from many fields. When they must reach a decision by consensus, members have several options. Defining those options in advance can help the group reach a decision with all its relationships intact. Available here and by RSS on July 8.
- And on July 15: Disjoint Concept Vocabularies
- In disputes or in problem solving sessions, when we can't seem to come to agreement, we often attribute the difficulty to miscommunication, histories of disagreements, hidden agendas, or "personality clashes." Sometimes the cause is much simpler. Sometimes the concept vocabularies of the parties don't overlap. Available here and by RSS on July 15.
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