Bad meetings aren’t just boring—they cost a lot of money

Be prepared.
Be prepared.
Image: Reuters/United Photos
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Most meetings don’t manage to accomplish much more than serving as a lengthy update on what people are up to—and as an interruption to their work. According to Nest CEO Tony Fadell, such meetings also come at a substantial cost. He put a very high dollar value on it at a Fast Company conference:

The number seems very high, and might be exaggerated to illustrate a point. But given that the average salary for engineers in the Silicon Valley area can exceed $100,000 and climbs significantly higher with experience—and that Google can afford to pay particularly well—Fadell might not be that far off.

It’s not just the hour or so spent in the meeting itself, and the impact on each team member’s lost productivity: there’s also all of the prep time leading up to the meeting. Frequently, much of that time goes to waste, catching up people that didn’t prepare very well. People who aren’t even at the meeting put time into prepping material or following up. And if it’s a weekly meeting, the costs compound.

A Bain & Company study of one firm estimated that one weekly meeting of an executive committee created 300,000 hours of extra work—including the prep, additional meetings, and followup that cascaded down to other employees.

So how to do it better? Fadell suggests, at a minimum, making good preparation a priority and calling out people who haven’t done their homework. Other executives have a whole host of techniques. But simply putting the cost in dollar terms is an important reminder of the true cost of having meetings without real purpose and results.

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