Solve This Math Problem When Bored in a Meeting

Meeting expense

The next time you’re sitting in a meeting, bored out of your mind, try doing the following calculations in your head.

Look around at the other participants and guess their annual salaries. Now pick a number that represents your best guess about the average.

Divide the average annual salary by 2,000. I know, there are 2,080 working hours in a year, but you’ll be doing the math in your head, and we’ve got to keep it simple.

Take the result and multiply by 1.25. This represents the extra cost for benefits, which gives you an estimated hourly rate for what it costs your employer to have each person sitting in the room for this meeting.

Finally, multiply your fully-loaded hourly rate by the number of people and the length of the meeting. This equals the total meeting labor costs.

Let’s suppose your meeting lasts two hours, and there are nine people in the room who average about $80,000 per year. Here’s the math:

((80,000/2,000) x 1.25) x 9 x 2 = $900

Now, just for kicks, decide what percent of this meeting is worthwhile. Let’s say there was a 15 minute conversation you thought produced something of value. For a two hour meeting that’s 12.5%.

Sadly that means 87.5% (go ahead and round up to 90%) represents waste. In other words, about $810 worth of labor time just slipped down the drain.

And to wrap up your mental distraction, how many times a year does this play out in your company?

  • Once a week: $42,000 wasted per year.
  • Five a week: $210,000 wasted per year.
  • Ten a week: $420,000 wasted per year.

Want some help to fix this?

These days, I’m all about reducing meeting waste and increasing productivity. Traditionally, I’ve helped organizations through classroom training or meeting facilitation.

Now I’m working on a new idea. It’s called “Just-In-Time Meeting Advice.” It’s for people who want to run their meeting plan past a neutral person for some feedback.

Ideally this happens at the “I’m thinking about calling a meeting” stage. That way, if appropriate, I can suggest alternatives to the meeting. The ultimate meeting savings is stopping an unnecessary meeting from happening in the first place.

For meetings that are already on the calendar, I can review the plan, offer suggestions, or even build it from scratch and provide a detailed facilitator guide that will give you step-by-step instructions on how to successfully lead the meeting.

A final option with this offering is for me to sit in on a recurring meeting that isn’t producing the results you want. Following the session, I provide the leader with feedback about what I noticed and what he or she might do different going forward.

If you’re interested in making this service available to your organization’s meeting leaders, email me, and we’ll set up a time to chat.

By Tom LaForce

Tom LaForce owns LaForce Teamwork Services, a Minneapolis-based consulting company. He's on a mission to create better results through teamwork. He wrote Meeting Hero: Plan and Lead Engaging, Productive Meetings.