Ten Ways to Increase Meeting ROI

Busy CIOs who spend a lot of their day meeting with business executive peers and IT staff know that it pays to make every meeting count. A new book, titled The Complete Handbook of Business Meetings (McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 2000, $47.95), from Vancouver-based professional meeting chairman and registered parliamentarian Eli Mina, offers management advice on how to increase the return on investment in meetings.

Meetings are expensive, Mina writes, as they often require a large investment in money, time and effort. He offers 10 tips on increasing meeting ROI:

1. To assess your ROI, you first have to calculate your investment in the meeting. Add up all of the costs: staff salaries, speaker and consultant fees, the costs of facilities and travel, the disruptive effects and the human toll on participants. Attach monetary values to non-monetary costs. You may find yourself astonished by how large your investment is.

2. Ask yourself: What am I buying for this investment? Ideas to increase profits? Ideas to increase efficiency and reduce costs? Ways to reach consensus on controversial issues, and thereby prevent costly disputes?

3. Having established your expected ROI, consider a simple – but rarely asked – question: Is the expected ROI substantial enough? If your answer is yes, you are doing better than most meeting planners. But don’t stop there: Seek to maximize your ROI and get an even greater bang for the buck. Your organization deserves nothing less!

4. If it becomes clear that a meeting is too expensive for the expected benefits, consider less costly “virtual meetings” for achieving the same (or better) results: E-meetings, teleconferences, videoconferences, and consensus building by fax or e-mail.

5. Based on the anticipated length of the meeting, calculate the cost for each minute. Then “budget” time for each agenda item based on the anticipated ROI for it (and not based on anyone’s personal wishes). In most meetings, 90 per cent of the time is invested in things that don’t make a difference. With good and deliberate planning, you can reverse this sad reality.

6. Learn to say no, graciously but firmly. If a proposed agenda item is not “ripe” for productive discussions, have it postponed. If it will clearly provide little or no value, drop it from the agenda altogether, or – if it must be included – allocate as little time as possible to it.

7. At the meeting itself, structure the discussions to maximize the ROI. Focus them on key issues which directly relate to the organization’s mandate, and avoid wasting time on side issues. Focus on solving real problems, instead of addressing symptoms and surface issues.

8. Treat time like money. Ask meeting participants to speak efficiently and concisely. If needed, set time limits on comments. To add quality to the deliberations, prevent outspoken participants from dominating the discussion (in most meetings, 90 per cent of the time is consumed by 10 per cent of the members).

9. Let guest speakers know what you expect them to focus on, what issues the group is most interested in, and what specific benefits their presentations should provide. Also let them know in advance how much time they will have, and how you will alert them that time is running out.

10. During the meeting, monitor the quality of the deliberations and feel free to intervene if needed. Consider these questions: “Are we being as productive as we need to be?” or “Are we focusing on the real issue?” or “Is our time spent in a meaningful way right now?”

Source: The Complete Handbook of Business Meetings (McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 2000, $47.95). Eli Mina’s Web site is at www.elimina.com.