The $75,000+ meeting

Put sixteen people in a meeting room every week for an hour and a half and you’ve got a meeting that costs in excess of $50,000 per annum - and that’s just for the time in the meeting room. Add in (a conservative) 45 minutes for each participant to prepare and follow up after and the annual cost jumps to $75,000+. How much cost-benefit analysis is done to ensure that this expenditure is, firstly, justified and, secondly, that the returns are produced?

Lunchtime on the Heaphy Track and we were celebrating not being at work. A bunch of workmates from a government department tramping together tell us they are pleased to be missing their weekly meeting. I want to know more. They have escaped a one and a half hour meeting - it used to be two hours but it’s been shortened. The purpose of the meeting is to communicate the work and to share with each other what they’ve done in the last week and what they intend to do in the upcoming week. Sound familiar? Meetings like this go on all over the place - and not just in the public sector.

It’s difficult to assess the productivity of a meeting without attending it to see what actually happens - but, we’ve seen these type of meetings before and in general they don’t deliver as well as they could. Why? Because this style of meeting is created in the hope that if we communicate enough stuff into the meeting then the relevant people affected by what is going on will be listening and then act appropriately. This can work - but it is somewhat random. There is only one participant’s report they are really interested in - and they know all of that before the meeting started - because it’s their own one.

Meetings are costly. Meetings need to be designed to ensure they contain material that is best handled by a meetingĀ  and then run with an efficient process to ensure they deliver the intended results.

Here’s another way to look at the cost of this meeting - two and a quarter hours of meeting time per week (in meeting, preparation & follow up) for 48 meetings a year uses 1728 person hours per year. A full time employee working 37.5 hours a week for 48 weeks a year uses 1800 hours per year. This meeting should be producing equal or more output than one staff member each year to be cost-justified.

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