The 35 Hour Meeting

I went to a 35 hour long meeting the other day.

Ok, that’s slightly misleading. There were ten people giving comments on a report, and it lasted for two hours, which is standard enough.

But what about the hidden time?

The meeting grabbed two hours out of each person’s day, so for ten people, that’s 20 hours in total.

Now imagine each person took 45 mins to get there, then another 45 mins to get back to the office (not bad for London) – that’s another 90 mins per person, with ten people, that’s 15 hrs travel time in total.

They’d have been lucky if they got much done in the travel time, beyond a mistyped replies to emails on their Blackberries.

In the meeting itself, we suggested changes to the report, made comments, went off on long tangents, the usual. But what if the report had been put on Google Docs say, and attendees got a secure link to it. Everyone could have spent half an hour making their changes and comments from home or the office. the report’s collator could have collated them all later. A Skype or phone conference call could even have been scheduled to go through the suggested changes together.

Suddenly, the 35 hour meeting would be down to 5 hours. The editors’ job would have been dead easy.

Dont get me wrong, I think face to face meetings are important for building and maintaining relationships, and I don’t want to be stuck behind a computer all day. There’s nothing like  a smile or a laugh to break the ice. But where we’re getting down to business, wouldn’t everything be quicker if everyone tried a new collaborative way if working? One that leaves us charities free go focus on the important business of delivering our services and fundraising?

Id be interested to know if anyone has tried!

One Response to “The 35 Hour Meeting”

  1. Samantha Sparrow 04/20/2011 at 7:58 am #

    Matt, this is a great post! I have never really thought of the aggregated time that people spend in meetings, including travel time, but I have often thought whether traipsing across London for 45 minutes to get to a meeting which could be really done in 30 minutes tops if you cut all the faffing, is worth the time!

    Because I often work with, or as part of remote teams, you idea of collaborative online working hit home with me. One team I contribute to uses Google Docs and Email etc to share resources and ideas, because it is more efficient than say traditional email or face to face. Also when you are putting an event together it is so brilliant! I have also used Moodle (sp?) which really helps cut down faff time to arrange meetings, and when I worked in the legal word we had something called worksite set up, where you checked documents in and out.

    I think some people get afraid at losing control over work or documents if you go down the collaborative, sharing route. Personally I think that is tosh, and people just need to dip their toe in and experiment to see how it works!


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