If You Made Meetings Optional, Would Anyone Attend?

Posted on May 8, 2012.

In a recent Forbes article, Christopher Frank estimated the weekly cost of meetings for a 10-person team to be just under $24,000.  He assumed 2-3 days worth of meeting s a week, which sounds about average to me.   Is anyone surprised then that productivity rates for the first quarter of 2012 have declined?

Not only are companies trying to do more with less, they’re adding countless useless meetings into the mix. I’m not saying all meetings are a waste of time, but if you made your meetings optional, would anyone show up?  Before sending out your next meeting invite, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What is the purpose of the meeting? Saying it’s a weekly (fill in the blank) meeting does not answer the question.  If you have weekly sales meetings, what’s the outcome you expect to achieve? Is there another method to get that information besides pulling your whole team together for an hour or more a week?  Think about creating an online log that everyone is required to update by a certain date.  Make it visible to the whole team and add a comment section to help create the kind of dialogue you might get in a meeting.
  2. Who needs to be there? Once you’ve established the purpose of the meeting, determining attendees should be easy. When you really thing about it, who is essential to accomplishing the expected outcome? If you can’t articulate the value to or from that person, they don’t need to be there.  Be thoughtful about this and use your own experience to help you. How many meetings do you attend that add no value or where your contribution is not necessary?
  3. Are you well prepared?  If you’re going to pull people out of the productive part of their day, have you done everything ahead of time to insure the meeting is worthwhile? This means creating and sending out ahead of time the agenda and all necessary materials.  If you are having the meeting online via a system like GoToMeeting, have you tested it to make sure you have enough portals?  Is everyone fully aware of what you expect from his or her attendance? Make sure you have a set timeline and stick to it!

Even after answering these questions and feeling you must have a meeting, take a step back. Ask your team for alternative suggestions. Challenge them to be creative about meeting alternatives and ask them to tell you exactly what they like to attend and what they dread. The one final question you need to answer is if you make the meeting optional, will everyone attend?