So far in our exploration of meeting costs, we've examined setup costs and preparation costs — activities driven mostly by the meeting organizer, the scribe, or others with formal roles supporting or leading the meeting. Let's now look at how meeting participants spend time.
- Waiting for people who are late
- During the meeting, we sometimes delay the start until everyone, or at least some important folks, arrive. The cost, though, isn't just the time spent sitting around. The cost often appears in the form of lower quality output that results from rushing other parts of the meeting to make up the lost time, or from deferring some agenda items to the next meeting.
- Tolerating lateness is an expensive habit. If you often wait for late arrivals, schedule time for it and hold it in reserve until you need it. Making this time visible is a first step toward controlling it.
- Preparing reports
- In most meetings, some people deliver reports about some things. They must prepare what to say, perhaps making a short handout or presentation. If they have some not-so-good news, they prepare answers to questions. Some even spend time preparing what not to say, or how to spin their reports to seem less bad than they are.
- All this takes time. Ask for reports only when they're really needed.
- Preparing nasty political attacks and defenses against them
- Probably your organization's accounting system doesn't track time invested in nasty political attacks or preparing defenses against them. Time gets spent on these activities anyway. That time must be charged to something else.
- The more toxic the conflict among the meeting attendees, the more time and money is spent on this activity, even if the conflict is covert. Letting ongoing toxic conflict fester is expensive. Deal with it.
- Preparing presentations
- Some people are scheduled to present more formally, with a longer time slot — 20 minutes or more. They prepare slides and handouts, they rehearse, they gather auxiliary material, and so on.
- Too often, The more toxic the conflict
among the meeting attendees,
the more time and money is
spent on this activity, even if
the conflict is covertmuch of what's presented is unnecessary. Trim these presentations. Nobody ever changes their minds about anything after the first 20 minutes of a presentation. Ask for the express version.
- Reporting on action items
- During the meeting, when we assign action items, we record them for tracking purposes. Fine. But in subsequent meetings, we tend to ask for status too early or too often. Some do this to encourage progress.
- If you don't expect significant progress on a particular action item, don't ask for a status report. If you want to encourage progress, find a cheaper way — a private conversation, for example.
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:
- First Aid for Painful Meetings
- The foundation of any team meeting is its agenda. A crisply focused agenda can make the difference between
a long, painful affair and finishing early. If you're the meeting organizer, develop and manage the
agenda for maximum effectiveness.
- Dispersity Adversity
- Geographically and culturally dispersed project teams are increasingly common, as we become more travel-averse
and more bedazzled by communication technology. But people really do work better together face-to-face.
Here are some tips for managing dispersed teams.
- 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.
- Why Sidebars Happen
- Sidebar conversations between meeting participants, conducted while someone else has the floor, are
a distracting form of disorder that can waste time and reduce meeting effectiveness. Why do sidebars happen?
- Interrupting Others in Meetings Safely: III
- When we need to interrupt someone who's speaking in a meeting, we risk giving offense. Still, there
are times when interrupting is in everyone's best interest. Here are some more techniques for interrupting
in situations not addressed by the meeting's formal process.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
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- 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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