Put Your Money Where Your Meeting Is

Date: March 5, 2014

A fact of life is that the life of a typical business professional is filled with meetings.  This can be good, bad, or indifferent depending on
your perspective. There are those who consider all meetings to be a waste of time and others who find value in just about every encounter. Since personal bias varies, I pose this question then:  is there an objective way to measure the monetary value of a meeting?

The simplest method, in my opinion, is to quantify the discussion in terms of economics.  To follow the old adage “Time is money,” each meeting held is an investment in the participants’ time and each hour can be measured based on the calculation of an hourly salary.  If we assume a standard 40-hour week, the typical professional will work 2,080 hours in a given year.  So, for an employee with an annual salary of $50,000, each hour is worth about $24.

Using this calculation as our basis, we can do a high-level estimate of the cost of each meeting we attend:

  • Determine your personal hourly rate.
  • Count the number of attendees in the meeting, then multiply your personal hourly rate by this number.
  • Measure the length of the meeting in hours, then multiply the previous figure by this number.

To put the total calculation in simplified format:

(Annual Salary / Annual Hours)*Number of Attendees*Number of Hours in Meeting

If we assume 10 people in a 30-minute meeting all making roughly $50,000, the math works out to:

(50,000 / 2080)*10*0.5 = $120

Collectively, then, this organization spent $120 on a 30-minute meeting, and the hypothetical employee personally spent $12.  As you have more expensive leaders, add more people, or extend the meeting duration, the cost continues to increase.  Factor in typical components like planning, presentation preparation, post-meeting follow-up on action items and the many details often bourne of a business discussion and the total cost can become quite large indeed.

The question to ask, then, is what value you are receiving out of the meetings you attend?  We all have a limited amount of time to achieve our work goals and so investing in the right meetings becomes paramount for the greatest return on investment.  Logically then, any meeting you attend where you get no value out of it is a waste of resources.

To avoid that trap, here are a few thoughts on how to have a meeting that provides you with a positive investment:

  • Include an agenda.  Ensuring that all meeting participants know the purpose of the meeting (brainstorming, working session, status update, and so forth) will help to reduce time lost in explaining why you are meeting.
  • Start the meeting on time.  Each minute expended has a monetized value associated (simply divide your original value by 60) – therefore, losing time to delay is wasted resources.
  • Begin with a summary of what the intended goal of the meeting is – doing so reinforces the first point, and sets the stage for the rest of the meeting.
  • Keep the meeting focused on the agenda.  While there are many creative ideas that come about in meetings, not all of them are germane to the current purpose; tabling an item and circling back separately will help to keep your current meeting on track.
  • Don’t include more people than you need to achieve the meeting goal.  Doing so will minimize costs and reduce the risk of straying from the agenda (see previous point).  That doesn’t mean to cut people out of the loop – it means to be very clear about who must attend and who is an optional attendee.
  • Don’t drag on meetings artificially.  If you scheduled a 60 minute meeting and get through the agenda in 45 minutes, wrap it up – you just reduced the total investment of the meeting by 25%.
  • Follow up with a summary of the key points of the meeting.  Yes, taking the time following the meeting is an additional investment, but if you anticipate further meetings, 15 minutes of documentation now will likely save you 30 minutes of rehashing in the next one.  It also ensures that any confusion is eliminated sooner than later, which further reinforces the first point – know the purpose of the meeting!

Having said all of that, I’m curious about your opinions.  Please use the comments below to share your own experiences with meetings, and how you personally determine whether the meeting is productive or not.



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