Are Rampant and Unproductive Meetings Killing Your Company’s Bottom Line?

 7 Tips to Decrease “Meeting Waste”          Meetings image final

Do you ever feel as though you’re on the meeting hamster wheel?  Well, you’re not alone.  According to a joint research study by Harvard Business School and the London School of Economics, executives typically spend more than 18 hours per week in meetings – that’s about a third of their work time.

Not only is the number of meetings being held increasing from past years, many meetings are deemed by participants as unnecessary and not productive at all.   A 2012 Salary.com survey found that “too many meetings” was the #1 complaint as the biggest time-waster in the office, up from #3 in 2008.

Moreover, a report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics discovered that unnecessary meetings cost U.S. businesses approximately $37 billion each year.  Most leaders don’t even know the cost of their meeting waste.

Meeting costs take into account the salaries of those involved adding in their benefits [healthcare, 401(k), etc.] in addition to meeting room, equipment and furniture costs.  Then add the price for lost productivity and meeting costs can soar.  A one hour meeting with six high-level attendees could easily cost upwards of $2,000.  If you’d like to check your company’s meeting cost, there’s a great meeting-time calculator available that shows the cost of every minute that goes by in your meeting (http://www.bringtim.com/meeting-cost-calculator.html).

On the plus side, meetings serve many purposes including keeping staff informed, understanding client’s goals more clearly as well as facilitating collaboration and problem-solving. You shouldn’t declare a moratorium on meetings, but you should encourage your staff to take some necessary steps to ensure that their meetings are efficient and productive:

  1. Ask yourself, “Is a meeting really necessary?” – Oftentimes, people are on auto pilot that defaults to mindlessly scheduling a meeting.  Determine what you need to accomplish and assess if there are more effective ways to communicate or collaborate such as face-to-face meetings or group emails.
  2. Invite only the necessary participants – During my agency life, it wasn’t unusual to have more than eight people in a meetings, sometimes 3 people from one department.  I realize that sometimes office politics and egos prevent us from limiting invitees, but whenever possible, make sure there isn’t redundancy on your list.
  3. Be prepared – Don’t be that annoying colleague who pulls together a rushed meeting just because she had a call five minutes ago with a client who only asked a hypothetical question.  This will happen, but a meeting is more effective when you are able to provide the answers to anticipated questions from participants.
  4. Create an agenda – Meetings do run much more smoothly when participants are informed of the sequence of discussion topics.  Having an agenda also helps reign in everyone when a topic goes off tangent.  Additionally, it lends more credibility to the meeting organizer who is perceived as being on the ball and efficient.
  5. Be the master of your meeting – As the organizer, you need to take the reins and facilitate the meeting with aplomb.  Be in control of your meeting so that you keep the group on task and on time.  If a key person is late, I don’t like to waste everyone else’s precious time waiting 15 minutes for one continuously tardy peer. Let everyone have a turn at speaking and be respectful of participants’ time – watch the clock and don’t go over the meeting’s scheduled time.
  6. Always end the meeting with action steps – The takeaway from the meeting should be a consensus on project direction as well as making sure everyone understands their roles and applicable next steps.  You can also plan your next meeting while you have everyone in the room.
  7. Write a meeting recap – I know it seems like more work and a bit of overkill, but it truly saves you time and money in the long run when you provide a quick email recap as to what occurred in the meeting and lay out the next steps and roles of everyone who attended.  This helps eliminate misunderstandings and is beneficial for an attendee who had to pull out of the meeting at the last minute.

Getting in the habit of enlisting your staff to follow these steps before sending out that meeting invite will help you whittle down the financial drain of meetings, and more importantly, help to ensure that meetings are run efficiently and effectively in order to achieve the goal(s) at hand.

Capture

Advertisements

Part 2 – 7 Tips for Planning and Executing a Successful NYC Consumer Media Tour :

MY NYC PicYesterday, I wrote the first part of my suggestions for a successful NYC Media Tour.  Here are the rest of my tips:

4.  Securing appointments – be persistent but not annoying!

It’s easy to secure appointments with editors with whom you have a good rapport; it’s much more difficult to get them with those you don’t know.  This is why having relevant information is important because usually an editor will listen and consider it when you do get them on the line. I usually send an email recap of what I want to meet with them about and then follow up with a phone call. If I get their voicemail, I leave a message, knowing that I’ll have to keep trying to get them live on the phone.  I always chuckle to myself when a junior PR executive complains that they haven’t been able to secure editorial appointments because the editor won’t call them back.  Editors receive hundreds of calls and emails per week; they don’t always have time to call you back, especially if they are the editor for a department. When that’s the case, I’ll call an assistant or associate editor (in that same department) to schedule appointments because I’ll invite them as well as their boss– this can sometimes ensure if one of them has to cancel, you’ll still be in front of the other one.  And, don’t eschew meetings with “just the associate editor” or with interns – I met with an intern only once and she ended up having a lot of clout (because of the skeletal staffs now) and we received nice coverage.

5.  Plan carefully what message you want to convey, but keep it simple.

It’s very rare that an editor will have more than a half hour block to meet with you.  So, you need to be concise and cognizant of their time.  About half of the editors I meet with conduct the “meeting” on the waiting couches in their lobby!  Meeting space at publications is typically limited, so your chance to hook up and present a 40-slide power point presentation is not going to happen. You need to know your talking points by heart. I’ve seen many PR pros caught off guard and tongue tied because they planned to go off of the power point and didn’t bother to really know the content.  Make sure you respect the editor’s time – don’t drone on and on and go over the time limit.  Also, be sure to define roles with your client; for instance, you’ll do the introduction and take notes and they’ll give the demonstration.

6.  Always be prepared for Plan B.

Editors are busy and things come up. It’s likely one will cancel or try to push back a meeting time.  Accept that this will occur and be flexible if your schedule permits.  If an editor does cancel and you cannot reschedule, still let them know that you’re going to drop off the press kit materials and product sample (if applicable).  For good measure, I like to get a dozen cupcakes from the Magnolia Bakery (several locations in Manhattan) and drop them off with the kits. They will remember that! And always follow up with them to make sure they received your package – sometimes things (cupcakes 😉 can end up in the wrong hands and you want to get credit for that).

7.  The follow-up is sometimes more important than the meeting!

Within a day or two of returning back to the office, send a thank you note (or email) with a recap of what you talked about in the meeting and any next steps that need to occur, such as sending more information or other product samples.  Pay close attention in your meeting and take judicious notes for your client so that you can follow up at various times with any news or information that they spoke of or that you know would be of interest to them.  Usually, the magazines have anywhere from 4-6 month lead times so you can check up on them occasionally to see if they’ve spoken with their boss and what might be covered in what future issue.  To keep yourself top of mind without badgering them, email them any useful follow up information or suggestions for another angle.  Just remember – there is finesse to media relations – badgering editors is not part of that.  Your goal is not just editorial coverage, but a lasting and mutually beneficial relationship with the editor.

Oh and one more thing, make sure you visit an ATM and bring cash for cab rides and tips in NYC – you don’t want to stick your client with those.

Successful travels!