Easy Ways to Stop Meetings From Sucking Time, Money and the Life Out of Your Team

Business.com / Managing / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Your meetings are probably costing you thousands, but are they worth it? Here's how to stop wasting everyone's time.

The biggest cost for most businesses is people, and every person’s time at a company has a value attached to it. So having a ton of employees in meetings can be a huge cost to your business.

Here's an idea: next time you're in a meeting with 8 people, take a good look around; assess what they are contributing to the meeting, what they're paid on an hourly basis and do the math. Meetings can run a company many thousands of dollars and you know what? They’re a time suck and usually can be done by half the people in the room in half the time.

Sometimes you find yourself being asked to attend meetings "just because" the meeting organizer feels like they have to ask, and if they don't include Sarah and Johnny those two will feel left out and bummed. And if you're invited to a meeting, you feel like you have to go because if you don't attend, your organizer might feel that you don't support what the meeting is about. But let's face it, meetings are a necessary evil to keep things in motion in most companies.

A few questions to ask yourself:

  • Does the meeting really need to last an hour? Most software calendaring programs are designed to rob an hour from you for each meeting. Why shouldn't they be automatically set to 15 or 30 minutes?
  • Does the person who called the meeting "own" it? It's up to him or her to clearly communicate the goal of the meeting and keep it on track. Are they doing that job or does the meeting usually go off course?
  • Does the meeting have an agenda? Most people don't provide an agenda of what's to be covered and what the outcome should be. I don’t go to meetings anymore if I don’t have a concise agenda of what the outcome of the meeting will be and if I’m going to lend anything to that decision.
  • What's the point? Do meetings turn into a complete status update where everyone is "justifying their job" talking about all of the great things they contribute to the company?

At our company, we meet when it's needed; we block out time, but if there's nothing valuable to meet on, we go about the business of executing on our business plan. And when we need to set up a meeting it's not for an hour, it's a half-hour max. When we demo our product we tell people it won't be more than a 20-minute demo and we stick to it. People don't have time and they need to get through all of the pile of work they have on their plate.

So what's a business to do?

1. Agendas Rule

Never attend a meeting without an agenda; and if you get a meeting invite without one, ask the originator where the agenda is and what the outcome of the meeting should be. If you see that you are not involved in making decisions around the agenda, go ahead and gracefully opt out of the meeting.

It might be a great idea to have a placard in all of your meeting rooms...NO MEETINGS ALLOWED WITHOUT AN AGENDA...framed and posted.

2. Decisions Happen

Make sure that in all meetings there are decisions to be made. If the group needs more data to make the decision, commit to doing so within a certain timeframe after the meeting. Make sure everyone knows who the decision makers are and what any follow-up items need to be. Finally, make sure that when the decision is made the entire team is communicated to.

3. Take it Offline

How many times do your meetings take a turn off of the agenda? Sometimes it's for a great reason because you've uncovered something that needs taking care of. But if there is an agenda for this meeting and it starts to go off course your meeting organizer needs to reel it in and take the important issue offline. Just stay late and take on the discussion, but at some point the meeting organizer has to step in and take control of the agenda at hand.

4. Step Away From The Laptop

If your organizer has to run the presentation or take notes on a computer, it's okay to have the computer open. I'm a firm believer in technology as an attention diverter. If Billy is doing other work while the meeting is going on it makes it seem like everyone else's time is less important than Billy's. Just close the computer and start to participate and add value to the meeting.


At the end of the meeting have the meeting organizer recap the outcome and decisions and what next steps are, and send an email out to all of the attendees and key stakeholders. Then be sure they follow up on each of the items to ensure that all items are accounted for.

There is no doubt that any business needs people to meet and work together to get the job done, just make sure it's as efficient as possible. 

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