How many meetings have you attended this week? This month? If you are like most business owners, the answer is too many. In my own business coaching firm, I sat down and crunched the numbers on our bimonthly executive meeting, and the results were eye-opening. 

Every two weeks my executive team and I meet via conference call for 90 minutes. When I factor in the hard hourly cost of each of the participants, that meeting is costing over $1,000 per hour! And working with other business owners over the past 25 years, I can tell you that my figure isn't unique. Every day business owners just like me are wasting valuable resources and capital on meetings that just aren't worth it. 

Here are my top tips for making the most out of business meetings.

Have an agenda written out. 

At Maui Mastermind, it is part of our culture to have one person "own" a scheduled meeting. This means that one person will give the meeting some thought prior to the event. They create a written agenda, set up the conference call on the calendar and help keep the team on task during the meeting. If there is preparation work that participants need to do prior to the event, the meeting owner will make that information explicit in the agenda beforehand. 

Show up on time.

At $1,000 an hour, every minute counts. So when you hold a meeting, make it a priority to show up on time and hold your staff accountable to do the same. 

If Linda comes in late or unprepared, privately hold her back after the meeting to have an adult conversation:

"Linda, I noticed that you came in 12 minutes late today, and that you didn't have the project numbers that we needed ready to share. Did something happen that got in the way of that? It really had an impact on the meeting and your peers."

All of us will have times when things come up, but if Linda has a pattern of things coming up, that is something you need to address as unacceptable. Frame it in terms of the impact of that behavior on the other participants and the company. Ask for her full agreement to change that behavior. This kind of immediate and direct communication, when respectful and done in private after the meeting, usually will clean up unproductive behavior.

Stick to your agenda.

You took the time to put together an agenda, so take the time to make sure that you stick to it. Whoever leads the meeting has the task of guiding the conversation, touching on all agenda items while giving participants the opportunity to contribute. If you find yourself going off track, push past the unproductive moment and steer the group back to the task at hand. This will keep your meetings short and productive. 

Follow up on action items.

A productive meeting is great, but it's nothing without adequate follow-through. At the end of each meeting, go back over your minutes and clarify action commitments for your team members. Set a due date on each action item and put it in the recap. 

It might sound like this:

"Let's recap what we agreed to do. Tim, you own two action steps from today, X and Y, both of which are to be done by this Friday close of business. You agreed to mark them complete on the project board when done. Sarah, you own item Z, which is due by the 15th, and which you'll give a summary of the outcome in your next weekly report..."

Do we still hold our biweekly $1,000-dollar-an-hour conference calls? Absolutely. And thanks to planning and follow-through, the results are worth every single penny.