Practices for Professionals – Meetings Best Practice 1: Limit Meeting Attendees

StrategyDriven Meeting Best PracticeMeetings provide a unique environment that facilitates collaboration through the provision of robust two-way communications. While other communications mechanisms facilitate information exchange, only meetings provide for the synchronous sharing of ideas – the dynamic interaction that enables groups to rapidly build on each other’s perspectives.

All too often, meetings are attended by a host of individuals who do not expect or intend to participate in the discussion but rather attend for information decimation or politically motivated reasons. Consequently, these individuals can become a distraction to active participants and in all cases represent an unnecessary waste of the organization’s resources.

Cost of Meeting Attendance

Each individual participating in a meeting represents a financial cost to the organization. Consider an individual whose total compensation, including benefits, of $100,000 per year. The cost to the organization for this individual to attend a 1-hour, weekly recurring meeting is $2,500 per year. If 100 employees unnecessarily attend one 1-hour meeting per week, the cost to the organization is $250,000 – the cost of adding two additional employees to the company staff!

Rules of Thumb for Who Should Attend a Meeting

The following general guidelines can be used to determine who should attend formally organized meetings:

Those who should attend

  • Individuals who the organizer expects to contribute unique knowledge, insight, or perspective to resolve the problem or conflict that is the subject of the meeting
  • Personnel who the organization expects to contribute unique knowledge, insight, or perspective to the development effort that is the focus of the meeting
  • Those providing status updates. Note that meeting organizers should provide a specific timeframe for the updates to be provided so that the responsible individuals may enter the meeting, make his/her report and answer questions, and exit the meeting in an efficient manner
  • Individuals to whom important, personal direction is to be given. Note that meeting organizers should provide a specific timeframe for these individuals to enter the meeting, receive the direction and ask clarifying questions, and exit the meeting in an efficient manner
  • Administrative assistants taking meeting minutes to be documented and distributed
  • Trainees observing the meeting for their personal development

Those who should not attend

  • Individuals not expected or intended to contribute to the meeting discussion
  • Personnel who would otherwise attend only for information reception purposes
  • Large number of an attending manager’s subordinates
  • Executives, managers, and contributors who desire to use meeting attendance to elevate their importance and/or stature

Final Thought…

Organizers should seek to optimize the number of meeting attendees; inviting individuals who can contribute in several areas rather than inviting numerous attendees who would provide one-off inputs.

About the Author

Nathan Ives, StrategyDriven Principal is a StrategyDriven Principal and Host of the StrategyDriven Podcast. For over twenty years, he has served as trusted advisor to executives and managers at dozens of Fortune 500 and smaller companies in the areas of management effectiveness, organizational development, and process improvement. To read Nathan’s complete biography, click here.

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