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Meeting are costly, but what is their ROI?

What is the ROI

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. And that doesn’t tell you anything about the value of your meeting. So what Return on Investment (ROI) do your meetings have?

The whole question of ROI of meetings popped up at a recent 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 this blog). All meeting objectives could be achieved without a meeting.

And that’s were it 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 meetings, we currently have no more than our gut feeling.

ROI of meetings: 3 things you should look at

I suggest three things you could be looking at that will give you a first idea of the ROI of your meetings:

  1. Growth of your organisation as a result of your meeting structure
  2. Actions that resulted from your meetings
  3. 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. 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 than 15 minutes. Deeper problems can be solved in a longer monthly meeting. An even third meeting with a frequency of 2-3 per year should be arranged to discuss strategic issues. 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 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 upon the meeting. So get the actions clear if you want to be able to say something on the ROI of your meetings. List the actions, 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 meetings. Once you get a clear picture you can start a continuous improvement programme of your meetings, where 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 meetings?

PS: I haven’t touched upon the leadership side of the meeting, i.e. how the meeting itself is run. This definitely impacts on the ROI of your meeting. But I’ll keep that topic for a later post.

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