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Tame the Meeting Monster

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Meetings are what happens when people aren’t working Elon Musk famously said.

Several recent articles have highlighted Elon’s advice on making meetings more efficient. While the outspoken Tesla CEO has no shortage of advice, his three rules for meetings are spot-on.

Most meetings are scheduled without ever thinking about their actual “cost”.  Even small, weekly check-ins can cost organizations $30K or more per year. Large, all-hands meetings can run into the mid-6 figures.

Meetings are actually one of the largest expenses and largest productivity drains in most organizations. In fact, workers expend more than 129 hours per year in meetings that were entirely unnecessary.

Elon’s Three Rules for Meetings
  • Get rid of all large meetings, unless you’re certain they are providing value to the whole audience, in which case keep them very short.
  • Get rid of frequent meetings, unless you are dealing with an extremely urgent matter. Meeting frequency should drop rapidly once the urgent matter is resolved.
  • Walk out of a meeting or drop off a call as soon as it is obvious you aren’t adding value. It is not rude to leave, it is rude to make someone stay and waste their time.

Some have said walking out of a meeting can be career suicide. Perhaps… but excusing yourself when leaving early the right way fends this off.

Reducing the Cost of Meetings

How to reduce the cost of meetings? Simply put, eliminate and reduce. 

Eliminate the meeting entirely.

Eliminating a meeting can be done by canceling it or conducting it asynchronously. That means using communication tools like Online Meeting, email, or video/audio recordings instead of holding a meeting. This saves time, frees up people’s schedules, and has many other benefits that come with real-time communication.

Reduce the number of people.

Strongly considering who needs to be there in the first place. Remember, you can always pull someone in for a portion of the meeting or send out meeting notes afterward to keep people in the loop.

Reduce its duration.

Cut all your recurring meetings by 15 minutes and see what happens. You can always add time back into a meeting.

Reduce its frequency.

If the meeting is recurring, try cutting its cadence in half. Moving a weekly meeting to biweekly often has very few negative consequences — but it halves the cost of the meeting.

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