‘Meetings do cost money. Definitely. And you can find numerous tools that help you calculate the costs of your meetings. Just google for downloadable apps. But what do these numbers really say? It only tells you how much money you invested in the meeting. Can you tell whether you are having productive meetings? Do you really know the value of your meetings? Telling the Return on Investment or ROI of your meeting is not that easy!
The whole question of ROI of meetings popped up at a workshop I was giving with Co-learning in Belgium. Discussing about leadership, meeting design, tools and methods we started wondering what the ROI of meetings was and how to calculate is.
Meetings are just a means
Meetings are just a way of realizing your objectives. So the ROI of your meeting should really be calculated compared to other alternatives. And yes, there are alternatives to meetings as meetings are just a means (see my blogpost here). All meeting objectives could be achieved without a meeting.
And that’s where assessing productive meetings becomes complicated. Because we usually do not try the alternatives and even less do we calculate what these alternatives would cost us compared to our usual meetings. When it comes to assessing the ROI of your meeting, we currently have no more than our gut feeling.
ROI of your meeting: 3 things you should look at for productive meetings
I suggest three things you could be looking at that will give you a first idea of the ROI of your meetings:
- Growth of your organisation as a result of your meeting structure
- Accountable actions that come from your meetings
- Behaviour change that resulted from your meetings
ad a. Growth through your meeting structure
Some meeting structures are better fit to enhance and sustain the growth of your organisation than others. Basically, some structures yield more productive meetings. So the question is: what meeting structure (and by that I mean the type of meetings, their frequency and their length) should you adopt? If you meet every week sitting around the table for 2 hours because you feel that everyone should be updated, then consider a daily standup meeting for not more 15 minutes. A longer monthly meeting solves deeper problems. And what about strategic issues? Try longer meetings with a frequency of 2-3 per year. Moving towards 21st Century Meetings would require you to consider an even bigger overhaul. So basically review your meeting structure. Ask yourself why you meet and try to design the best meeting structure fitting your needs.
Be aware that this is a trial and error path. The structure will not be correct right from the start. And you’ll have to revue your meeting structure every once in a while as your environment will change, the organisation will grow and people get bored doing the same stuff after a while.
ad b. Accountable actions from your meetings
The proof of the pudding of a meeting lies not in the meeting itself, but in the actions that follow the meeting. To put it differently: productive meetings depend on the actions being followed-up afterwards. So get the actions clear if you want to be able to say something on the ROI of your meeting.
Make this happen already within the meeting itself. Draft the actions with all participants. Do so by writing them down on a flip-chart or on a screen so all participants are able to see, read and amend all the actions. Thus they are able to react immediately if an action is not being put precisely enough. Never forget to add the holder of the action (basically making your action SMART). This also increases the engagement within the meeting and with the actions. Too often I still see secretaries struggling after the meeting to pen the actions down in the minutes. And because they are struggling, the minutes are being sent around way too late to be able to keep the momentum. That is definitely not how productive meetings should look like.
Then after the meeting, send them quickly to the participants so they’ll be able to act swiftly. A suggestion could be to publish them on a central place where everyone can see theirs and others progress. The ROI of your meeting is a result of how many actions have been identified and how much have been implemented successfully.
ad c. Behaviour change from your meetings
If your meetings clearly enhance the way people work together, then you’re on the right track. As a result of your meetings, participants change their behaviour and start cooperating, sharing, helping one and other more than they did before. Now, in order to know the ROI of your meetings you should start measuring the behaviour of the participants. This sounds difficult and is definitely something you should plan carefully before your meetings, but once the system is in place it’s a great tool.
These things all give you an insight on the ROI of your meeting. Once you get a clear picture you can start a continuous improvement programme of your meetings. And using alternatives to meetings should definitely be on the agenda.
So, when are you going to start to get an idea of the ROI of your meeting?
PS: I haven’t touched upon the important topic of leadership of meetings in this post (i.e. how the meeting itself is run). This definitely impacts on the ROI of your meeting. Check my post on this issue.