Updated: Dec 2, 2021
We’ve all been there before – you need to call a meeting but aren’t sure where to draw the line at invitees. This post will focus on the cost of over-inviting people to a meeting.
Getting the Meeting Started
This is an easy one to pick off. The more people you invite to a meeting the greater the chance that not everyone will show up on time. For example – think of all the times you set or attended a meeting with 10 or more people and then out of those times, count how many times all 10 were in attendance and ready to go by the designated meeting start time. People will have overlapping conflicts, will run late on back-to-back meetings or can just generally be late sometimes which hurts your meeting and takes time away from your agenda. The time spent by people who show up on time waiting for those who don’t is a direct and unrecoverable cost of over inviting to a meeting.
Lines of Communication
Ok so everyone has showed up and your meeting has now started. One thing that a meeting facilitator needs to consider when deciding who to invite is understanding how many lines of communication there will be given the number of attendees. The math here is simple. Drawing on the PMBOK formula for communication channels of n(n-1)/2 where n represents the number of people you can easily calculate the potential communication channels in a meeting. Remember that the more communication channels you have, the more potential discussion you will have – which is a great thing if properly moderated however can provide a more significant challenge to moderate if attendees cannot stay on topic. Remember that communication is paramount, but it needs to be for the benefit of the discussion. Take good care in understanding what each attendee is bringing to or taking away from the meeting to ensure their value to the discussion.
Staying on Topic
This may seem like a no-brainer but it’s important to remember as meeting facilitators that the more people we have in our meetings, the more challenging it will be to stay on topic. This means that the meeting facilitator needs to ensure that the meeting is being run in a disciplined fashion with specific focus on the agenda topics and any side discussions are put into a parking lot for future discussion. The more attendees that are in a meeting the higher the likelihood that your meeting discussions will try to go off the tracks so remain vigilant.
Meetings can be valuable. Meetings can also be detrimental if not planned, organized, or facilitated effectively. Pay careful attention to your invite list and you will take that first step in making sure you have a valuable meeting.