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FACILITATION: How To Improve Your Meetings In 60 Minutes

When you scrounge around the Internet, you find some interesting and troublesome statistics about most meetings:

• Between 35-50% of meeting time is seen as wasted.
• Most meetings start 8-12 minutes late.
• 75% say agendas are not prepared and distributed in advance.
• Less than 30% of decisions in meetings are recorded.
• Over 40% of people don’t know the purpose of the meeting they’re attending.

Looking at the numbers on poor meetings
So let’s take a typical meeting of 8 people, paid approximately $50/hour (with benefits rolled in) who have a weekly one hour staff meeting.  The cost of that meeting is $400 to the organization times 50 weeks or $20,000 for the year, or an individual cost of $2,500.  The meeting’s purpose is to share information with each other in a round-the-table fashion.  The problem is that in any given week about five of the participants already know the information being shared.   So for them, the meeting is a redundancy waste of time amounting to $12,500 a year.  The $400 meeting typically starts 10 minutes late, or a cost of $24 x 50 meetings or $1,200 due to the late start.  Because the agenda isn’t provided in advance nor actions and decisions recorded at the end, the members spend an additional hour per week talking about how the meeting is so frustrating, or whether anybody knows what the meeting is about – an additional waste of $400.  So let’s look at our total:  for a $20,000 investment of time and energy, the return-on-investment is actually $5,900, or a $14,100 loss on the original investment.

Why so frustrated?
Many people find it very difficult to speak up about their frustrations, despite the fact that they agree their meetings are a waste of time.  They accept the waste, rather than explore ways to improve the situation.  Often, in training, when we propose doing things differently – like setting up an agenda – they will counter with the remark “but no one else does that around here.”  In other words, to step out and do something differently, albeit with the intention of making things better, is seen as a negative.  How is that?  I’ve come to realize several things:  a) people need to articulate the personal and organizational loss of continuing with status quo; b) they need to work with others to introduce change, rather than going it alone; and c) they need to experience a very quick win to gain confidence.

When we ask about the negative effects of unproductive meetings, many mention the following:

• Loss of credibility as a leader
• Loss of morale and engagement of the team/group
• Confusion about who is doing what, when and for whom
• Harm in working relationships
• Delayed decision making
• Poor image in the organizational network or marketplace
• Boredom and frustration

Are those consequences enough to drive a change in approach?  We have found it beneficial to couple the consequences with the benefits of improving meetings.  Here are the benefits participant often list:

• Can make you a stand-out as a leader who is admired (and noticed) by others
• Increases results which increases selection for other high-visibility projects
• Improves feelings of accomplishment; raises self-esteem of members
• Improves attendance and engagement of members who understand why they are there and what’s to be accomplished

Running an effective meeting is not rocket-science.  It does take confidence, some new skills and a bit of hutzpah to herd the cats.  However, once the high productivity meeting pattern is established and practiced six times, very few people want to go back to the way it used to be.  Meanwhile, you emerge with a reputation for great meetings – a true stand-out in your organization.

Download our Skinny Mini-Meeting Tool Kit for 5 quick things to start right away to improve your meetings.  Good luck!



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An innovative training and employee development firm located in southern Vermont since 1984, we specialize in helping organizations get the most out of their people by raising the bar, inspiring potential and partnering with organizations to build a people-centered, high-engagement culture.

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