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If you really want to reduce travel spend, we must stop meetings like this…

“I might actually get some work done if it wasn’t for all these internal meetings”

Sitting in a room looking out at the sunshine on a hot and sultry day in London I reflected on the number of comments like the one above I had heard recently. I could resist the urge to break out because I knew why I was there and the value of what I was doing. I could add to the above comment many times over, but here are some of the more regular ones from people that suggest not everybody has the same feeling I did that often; “meetings for meetings sake”, “pointless meeting”, “no idea why I had to be there” sure you can fill in with some of your own.

37 percent of employee time is spent in meetings.” National Statistics Council in America

If you add the following statistic from a survey reported in Industry Week where Managers’ stated that 30% of their time spent in internal meetings were a waste of time you begin to see the size of the challenge. I also wager a large number of people reading this will be wishing it was only 37% of their time spent in meetings. If we accept that the vast majority of business travel happens to enable people to meet then it begins to feel like a vicious circle.

If you add in the findings from when Microsoft, America Online and conducted a collaborative study looking into the actual amount of time people worked in an average day or week then things look critical. The study concluded that the average worker actually worked only three days per week or about 1.5 hours per day. The study identified that the rest of the working time was “wasted,” with unproductive meetings heading the list. I wonder where trawling through endless internal emails came then…

So, is there any light at the end of the tunnel that leads to a more productive workforce and a reduction in travel spend? Not unless you start recognising some of the root causes and try to address them. As this is a blog rather than a consultation I am not going to give you all the answers but I will share some pointers.      

1) We all use a strict criteria when considering inviting event attendees, then forget this completely when it is an internal meeting.

2) We are extremely conscious of the right numbers at an event, the more the merrier at an internal meeting appears to be the mantra.

3)We wouldn’t dream of running an event without an agenda and making sure attendees had it in plenty of time, internal meeting?

If you have got a real need to bring people together, you know who you need involved and they know what is expected from them then it is time to check the right format to use.

Technology, even in the most simplest of forms, means we no longer need to have everybody in the same room to communicate effectively. How many meetings have you attended that when you receive the agenda the night before, (if you are lucky enough to get one!) or just as you are setting out on your journey, you see you have been allocated a 30 minute slot in the 4 hour meeting. 30 minutes is exactly a quarter of the time it will take you to journey there and back! Are you going to arrive feeling positive and ready to contribute, or arrive feeling that if you had seen the agenda before you booked your travel you would have requested a dial in slot saving you one and a half hours of precious time and the company a small fortune in lost time and travel costs?

Hybrid meetings are on the increase because people understand you do not have to have everybody physically in the room to push information to them. Video is a format most are very comfortable with both using to create and receive, slides can be reviewed and changed in real time by any participant. However, do remember to send everybody the media you will be referring to in plenty of time. Not five minutes before when most people have gone into a meeting room and are now offline!

Project update meetings… everybody in the project team attends a 1 hour meeting every week for as long as the project runs to let the room know they are on track. Or… project management software means everybody knows exactly where the project is at any point in time and you get together only to discuss challenges and milestones.

The right meetings will always have their place, and those that are fortunate enough to only attend the right meetings will appreciate that, and an earlier blog talks to the next step in spend reduction you can consider when you do need to meet.If you have read this far and are still not convinced it is an issue then consider the amount of corporations who routinely impose short term travel bans when times are tight. A 5 W review of your meetings may just be a more sustainable approach. Emails, now that is a whole blog on its own…

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Author: The Conference Doctor              Published: 17 July 2014