Stop inviting everyone to your meeting!

I was fantasising about a new Outlook feature today. No really, I  am that sad! Here was my fantasy, whenever you create a new meeting event, there is a little box showing the estimated meeting cost. This cost should double as you double the length of the meeting and also double when you add people to the meeting. I want it to come complete with a “ker-ching” sound each time it increases. Then before you send the meeting invite I want the software to ask you, “Is the problem you are trying to resolve at this meeting more valuable than the meeting cost?”

Whilst we are still meeting remotely, it is easier than ever to invite every man, woman and child* with a work email account to our meeting. At least when we were in the office, the physical size of the space we could find to have the meeting constrained our inclusive tendencies to invite everyone. Effectively now there is no limit. Whilst attending those meetings I often whittle away the time by totting up in my head the actual cost someone is paying to enable that meeting to go ahead. Someone is paying the salary of everyone there. I then count how many of the 53 attendees actually joined in the discussion. I have been on meetings where the meeting length and the number and seniority of attendees meant the meeting cost will have run into the tens of thousands.
I’ve changed my mind. Rather than showing an estimated meeting cost we should just have a rule that the meeting organiser must eat a doughnut for every attendee that doesn’t speak. The first one or two will be tasty but I guarantee after donut 43 you will never invite someone “just in case” again.

It might feel comforting to have everyone there, “just in case” but there is always an opportunity cost for inviting people to a meeting and maybe, just maybe, they have something better to do…like their job. The number of times I hear people say “I’m just in meetings back to back, when do I get the chance to do any work?” The point is, it can be really (really) stressful for people when they don’t feel they have time to produce some valuable output and it is incredibly demoralising. It turns out we naturally want to be valuable. That’s a good thing and we should encourage it by not meeting.

I think we should have a meeting to discuss this proposal. Are you with me?
* If you have children working for you, there are laws against that so stop it.

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