US businesses lose around $37 billion each year due to unnecessary meetings, and the time lost and opportunity cost due to unproductive meetings can be compounded if there are unnecessary attendees. Project meetings are no different. Not every project management meeting is the same and the attendees required will vary, depending on the specific meeting.

Here is an example of how expensive meetings can be:

If 12 people average an hourly rate of $50 and attend a one-hour weekly meeting for 24 weeks, the cost to the project is $14,400. If only eight people needed to be in attendance, the cost would have been $9,600. The additional four attendees cost the project $4,800 over 24 weeks. This may not sound like a significant number to the bottom line of a project, but if this were to take place over 10 projects, the cost to a company would be almost $100,000. Importantly, this cost does not factor in the productivity lost due to the unnecessary attendance, as attendees could be actively working on other initiatives within the business.

Before you send out the next project meeting invite, make sure that each person on the list is directly affected by the information, has something important to contribute, is providing a relevant update, or is in a lead role and requires the information for decision-making. Here are some guidelines to help you make the decision:

1. Determine the precise purpose of the meeting and identify which stakeholders are directly affected by the information that will be discussed.

As a rule, if potential attendees are likely to leave the meeting without a takeaway that directly impacts the task they are working on, they do not need to be at the meeting. Their time is better spent moving a deliverable forward.

SEE: Ebook: How to make meetings worthwhile (Tech Pro Research)

2. Identify which stakeholders are relevant subject matter experts or might have something important to share with other attendees.

The advice provided by these attendees can be vital in how other stakeholders proceed with their tasks. This especially holds true if the advice solves a problem, offers new insights, or increases the chances of reaching a goal.

3. Determine which attendees have a relevant update that other stakeholders need to know about or are dependent on.

Projects can run into big trouble if relevant stakeholders are not up to date on project developments and task level updates in a timely manner. Again, there is the important caveat about relevance: not every stakeholder needs to know every update about every task.

SEE: Time management tips for tech professionals (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

4. Identify any stakeholders in a lead role who require the updates or information from the meeting for decision-making.

Projects ultimately should be conducted to meet higher level company goals. Leaders need to be current with project progress and status to make mission-critical decisions.

5. Contact potential attendees to discuss the meeting agenda.

Get their feedback if you are not entirely sure whether their attendance is necessary. Most people are busy and are unlikely to say ‘yes’ if they are not adding value.

6. Ask all attendees if they know of any others who are potentially valuable.

Sometimes previously unavailable insights or assistance can move a task or project in the best direction.

Before you send out the next project meeting invite, follow these steps to reduce resource costs, save valuable time, and focus in on meeting goals and action items.

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