We all know that meetings can be a tremendous waste of time. However, few of us realize just how bad the problem is. Online scheduling service Doodle just released the results of its study of 19 million meetings and interviews with more than 6,500 working professionals in the U.S., U.K., and Germany.

The results weren't pretty.

According to Doodle's 2019 State of Meetings report, the cost of poorly organized meetings in 2019 will reach $399 billion in the U.S. and $58 billion in the U.K. This is almost half a trillion dollars for these two countries alone -- a tremendous drag on the effectiveness of businesses.

And what are some of the consequences for employees who suffer through poorly organized meetings? According to the report, respondents most often cited:

  • poorly organized meetings mean I don't have enough time to do the rest of my work (44 percent);
  • unclear actions lead to confusion (43 percent);
  • bad organization results in a loss of focus on projects (38 percent);
  • irrelevant attendees slow progress (31 percent); and
  • inefficient processes weaken client/supplier relationships (26 percent).

The good news is there are things anyone can do to make their meetings better and more efficient and effective. Doodle's State of Meetings report suggests that doing these four things can make a big difference:

  • Set clear objectives for your meeting; 
  • have a clear agenda;
  • don't have too many people in the room; and
  • use visual stimulus such as videos and presentations.

With the average business meeting running about an hour, the cost of ineffective meetings to an organization can add up very quickly. Before you reserve a room and send out invitations, take a few moments to consider why you want to call your meeting in the first place. Who should be present? What outcomes do you expect as a result of the meeting? What impact do you hope to have?

As with any tool, meetings will yield the results you want only when their limitations are taken into consideration and dealt with.