ROM Part 1: Could Your Return on Meetings Be Better?

by 

Josh Lowy

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This is Part 1 of a series on helping organizations think differently about their Return on Meetings. In this entry, we take a look at exactly what's making your meetings cost so much.

Do you know your Return on Meetings (ROM)? It may be strange to think of your meetings as an investment, but that's exactly what they are. Meetings can make or break your business.

On one hand, 47% of employees and 67% of executives think meetings are "unproductive failures." On the other side of the equation, companies like Google, Amazon, and Facebook consider meetings to be their secret weapon behind unparalleled productivity and a customer-centric culture. Which category do you fall into?

Let's examine the top five causes of a low Return on Meetings and how they could be costing you big time.

Do You Use an Agenda?

Never underestimate the power of a meeting agenda. Think of them this way: "If you don't know where you're going, how will you know when you get there?" Agendas are critical to maximizing your Return on Meetings. Unfortunately, they can do as much damage as good, depending on how you use (or don't use) them.

On average, employees attend 62 meetings per month. And 63% of those meetings don't have a pre-planned agenda. This makes for some disheartening statistics:

  • The average employee spends four hours just preparing for weekly status meetings.
  • 91% of employees daydream during meetings.
  • 73% do other work during meetings.
  • 39% take naps during meetings.
  • 45% leave each meeting feeling absolutely overwhelmed.

Remember, your meeting agenda is a framework for moving your initiatives forward. If it's not capturing your meeting inputs and outputs effectively or keeping your team on track, there's room for improvement.

Are You Capturing Meeting Insights With a Scribe?

Meetings can contain a ton of useful information. But if it's not all captured properly, you could be doing your team a great disservice; team meetings without scribes are one of the biggest upstream causes of a low Return on Meetings.

U.S. companies spend $37 billion per year on meetings alone. Without a scribe, that could add up to millions of dollars going down the drain for any one company. When you forgo a note-taker, you risk facing the following problems:

  • Insights could be lost forever.
  • Employees may accidentally double up on work.
  • You could be prioritizing the wrong work.

Your scribe is the glue between your meeting insights and actions. Without a note-taker, things fall apart fast. Inversely, if you do capture your meetings with a scribe, not only do you preserve insights, but you also promote positive results down the line.

Are You Assigning Actions?

Before ending each of your team meetings, do you answer the following questions:

  1. What are the next steps to take on the initiatives discussed?
  2. Who is in charge of taking those steps?

If you can't answer these, you don't have a solid process for action-tracking. In turn, this severely stunts your teamwork from the start. This can all be summed up in one simple yet profound principle: accountability drives action.

Finding out which team member is taking the lead on an endeavor is just as important as figuring out the next steps needed to make progress. So always do both parts of this equation. It neatly ties up all loose ends and ensures everyone's on the same page, including all team members not at the meeting.

Are You Trapping Meeting Insights?

The 'need-to-know' basis needs to go. There's no faster way to foster distrust and kill motivation among your team members. And this especially applies to the distribution of your meeting knowledge and insights. Ask yourself: What value does recording meeting notes in something closed off like a notebook really offer? If you answered 'None,' you're completely correct!

Not sharing meeting notes is the biggest contributor to a low Return on Meetings. Because you're not spreading insights across your team, you're losing out on the potential contributions other members could make. You're also opening up the possibilities for more meetings to retread old discussion points and focus to be directed toward the wrong initiatives.

Your team is your greatest investment. And spreading your meeting insights opens up the potential for greater returns. So consider centralizing and sharing your meeting insights with as much of your team as possible. This includes departments who aren't even directly related to the topic at hand — you never know where your best idea could come from.

How Many People Actually Need to Attend the Meeting?

Do your meetings tend to get a little overcrowded? Or are they so empty you can hear crickets? Who to invite to a meeting can be a tricky topic.

On one hand, each meeting attendee is a person not working on his or her assigned tasks. On the other hand, you could waste incredible amounts of time updating everyone not in the room on what happened. And the wrong mix of people can make it incredibly hard to reach any conclusions.

Here are some factors to consider in calculating the true cost of your meetings in terms of attendees:

  • Every meeting attendee costs the company according to this simple equation: Meeting Time x Salary.
  • Consider the opportunity cost: does an attendee need to be present, or should they be working on something else?
  • It's extremely easy to overspend. The more meeting attendees, the more meeting costs compound.

Remember: relevance is key. This is the main factor that will help you decide if someone should be at the team meeting or if they should be working on something else.

Ready to Really Boost Your Return on Meetings?

We hope you've enjoyed this review of the top causes of a low Return on Meetings. Stay tuned for part 2 of this series. We'll walk through how you can address each of these common conundrums and make them work to your advantage.

Still don't know where you stand on these five factors? Check out Meetrics by Hugo! We give you a detailed breakdown of your meeting trends and other insightful statistics so you can easily figure out how to improve your meetings.

For a more in-depth discussion about how you can increase your Return on Meetings, read our whitepaper here.