Your meetings are costing you more than time

Feb. 19, 2024 / By Desmond Bibby

At one point in my career, I was in a meeting with a small group of analysts, mid-level managers and senior executives. It was a short, 30-minute call with a lot of informative dialogue and some material presented. The purpose of the call was to decide whether to implement a new process this year or not. Three people did all of the talking and presenting while the other 11 people (including myself) were there waiting to see if any questions were going to be asked of us. When the meeting was done it was identified that we needed another meeting with three additional people to assist with the decision making. The next meeting a few weeks later had the additional three people on to provide subject matter insight and analysis. One of the three spoke for exactly two minutes while the other two said nothing at all. By the end of the second 30-minute call, it was decided that the process was a good idea but not really useful at the time and we should explore it next year.

I have been on calls like these my entire professional career. Although I oftentimes learn something new from these conversations, I must admit that this particular sequence of calls was a bit frustrating for me.

Due to the number of colleagues and various levels of responsibility on the call, it made me start pondering how much money in salary was being spent to conduct these calls. I guesstimated the average salary to be $40 – 50hr. This could be a low or high estimate, but I felt like it was a good starting number and allowed me to do the math easily in my head. This means those meetings cost around $500 to $650 to conduct in salary alone. We didn’t produce any widgets or doodads during the call so that means we were just spending the company’s money to talk to each other for an hour. While I am no big fan of email either, I do think a lot of the discussions could have been completed in short form via email. After about five to seven exchanges or so we would have come up with the same response. However, the conversation could be conducted when it is convenient for the parties to answer.

After this experience, I started scrutinizing every meeting I was scheduling and every meeting I attended as if I had to cut a check for it. I would ask myself questions like “If this meeting is worth $300, did I get at least that amount worth of information or productivity out of it?” and “This meeting just cost the company $2,000, was it a good investment?”

By focusing on the actual cost of my meetings I started to expect better value and production out of my meetings. I started making sure that they were efficient and actually produced something. I question if we really need a meeting or if this conversation can be held via email or IM? Are the people attending there to contribute or are they just a live studio audience? Next time you are in a meeting, ask yourself if you had to cut a personal check to conduct this meeting would you still be having it or would you investigate other options?

Desmond Bibby is business operations manager for the regulatory and government affairs team at 3M Health Information Systems.