We’ve all been there, sitting in a two-hour meeting that seems to be going nowhere, the all-day meeting with consultants that produces minimal results, or the ever-popular weekly staff meeting that runs too long and always ends in mindless chitchat. Have you ever sat there in your meeting-induced coma and wondered, “What is this costing us?” Harvard Business Review recently introduced a web-based app that allows you to answer that question!


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Too many meetings are a plague of both the for- and non-profit worlds and historical institutions are no exception. Staff with administrative and project management roles often find themselves in meetings more than they are at their desk. I know I have certainly experienced periods in my career when my days were literally full of one meeting after another. Have you ever found yourself stymied when you finally have some time to sit down and do “real work?”

That’s not to say that all meetings are bad. Well-planned and focused meetings are essential and can actually be incredibly productive. I can’t imagine planning an exhibition or major program without assembling a team of colleagues to provide their different skills and talents. Even a staff meeting, if on-point with clear outcomes can greatly increase communication within an organization. And, of course, the AASLH Annual Meeting is an incredibly valuable use of staff time, allowing for networking, generating of new ideas to take home, and recharging our batteries!

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Photo courtesy of the National Scouting Museum

Meetings tend to proliferate, in part I think, because they don’t directly impact the bottom line. We know about the hard costs of fabricating an exhibit or putting on an educational program but the soft costs of staff time is often overlooked. However, for most of us, staff resources are our most precious and scarce commodity. The meeting calculator can provide a useful way of making the time used for meetings more tangible.

The app can be found here, is available for both Android and Apple, and is easy to use. With a few pieces of information–the length of the meeting, number of attendees, and approximate salaries of each attendee–the app calculates the cost of the meeting and provides some feedback on whether the time is well spent. I don’t always find the app’s opinion applicable but knowing the cost of a meeting certainly causes you to pause and consider the time spent. And, if nothing else, while sitting in a long and aimless meeting you can be distracted by calculating how much money is flying out of the room.