Solution Saturday: 10 Ways to Shorten Long Meetings
Great meetings create efficiency.
It’s Solution Saturday. The problem I’d like us to solve is spending too much time in long meetings. One CEO said she has to take her work home at night because her days are spent in meetings.
“… one either meets or one works. One can not do both at the same time.” Peter Drucker
10 ways to shorten long meetings:
- Ban electronic devices. Everyone will be anxious to end the meeting if they can’t read or send texts or emails.
- Send background materials the day before. Meet with a key player who can gather and summarize materials for the team. Review and approve all background information before it’s sent.
- State the purpose of the meeting when you send out the agenda. State the purpose again at the beginning of the meeting. A meeting without a purpose is a complete waste of time.
- Establish action items on the agenda, not discussion points. State what needs to be accomplished.
- Ask people for their conclusion when they begin speaking. Teach teammates to get to the point quickly by asking:
- What’s your conclusion?
- What’s your recommendation?
- What do you want?
- Minimize one-way communication. Leverage two-way, real-time communication.
- Limit the number of participants to five or six at most. Small groups:
- Increase ownership.
- Elevate responsibility.
- Shorten the time needed for the meeting.
- Expose drifters. Drifters can’t hide in small groups.
- End at the appointed time. Teach people that you stick with the agenda.
- Don’t reward tardiness by reviewing.
- Send meeting results:
- Review decisions made.
- List follow up responsibilities. The person who doesn’t have something to do after the meeting, shouldn’t have attended the meeting.
- Include deadlines.
Bonus tip: Shorten the length of all meetings by 25%. See #8! People who like to get things done will thank you.
How might leaders solve the problem of long meetings?
Great list, Dan. And at the end of the day, a good facilitator can help shorten meetings as well.
Thanks Steven. Glad you added the idea of a good facilitator. It might surprise some to hear the suggestion that the person running the meeting should be a junior member of the team who is trained in facilitation.
For large meetings (departmental faculty meetings in my case), these suggestions are even more important and getting feedback and commitment the driving rationale. It seems to me getting responses without these meetings is an even better objective. Most meetings of this size are likely “tradition.”
There were lots of the 5-7 people size too. These suggestions are excellent – as they became too much socially oriented.
Thanks John. Departmental meetings have some usefulness…however, I think most everyone hates them. A wise administrator would win lots of points if they shortened the length and limited the frequency of those all hands on deck meetings.
Is a long meeting 30 minutes with a boring, uninformed, self-serving manager–or 3 hours with a dynamic, inspiring, creative, agenda-driven, staff-fulfilling, and dialogue (not discourse) oriented leader?
What if a meeting leader asked a host of “essential questions” expressly about what the meeting participants already do well…as a way of engaging them in what the meeting agenda is all about?
I am believer that everything must be “sold,” and every professional must know the art and science of transforming the “sales process” into an “educational experience.” Artists, poets, doctors, and even college professors must “sell.” No, not like sales people per se, rather by the use of words, tonometry, gestures, dialogue, and a host of other professional speaker techniques.
The first goal of a meeting is not to disseminate information, but to make the meeting come alive. And I think one of the best and quickest ways to do that is to “sell” them on who they are (character virtues, personality qualities, positive attitudes, professional fulfillment, etc.) and what they are already doing well (what they know, what they do, contributions, success, grit, etc.).
Once rapt attention is earned and gained, the meeting agenda can be introduced.
I like two suggestions from Richard Branson: standing meetings (that’s right – don’t sit down) or walking meetings (love this one).
I agree with Wozza-Have your meetings standing up. Plus no coffee,tea, doughnuts etc. It’s not social its WORK!
Love #5 – conclusion first, then backup
Number 1and 6 are critical… The CEO of my last company would drag us top 30 executives to the head office every three months. We’d come from across the world to listen to a 4 hour monologue…
As we said to ourselves, the real meetings took place at the bar the night before
It’s a crying shame but a sign of our times that #1 would even have to be “imposed” on supposedly grown-up people in the workplace. (Try conducting a training session with half the class staring intently at their crotches.) I like #5 as well. This eliminates much excess verbiage and equivocating during meetings and focuses on results. I have used “stand-up” meetings to useful effect when it was practical. Great list and good topic for follow-up discussions at work.
I believe that I will share this one with my team this week. Excellent post!
GREAT list Dan!! What if you have a status meeting that is supposed to be at a Tier 3 level – 50,000 ft view – (audience is the Director and Superintendent) but it’s the Director/Super who actually take us off the cadence? This meeting isn’t for “in the weeds” status, anything that becomes “in the weeds” is supposed to be taken off-line. This meeting is supposed to be specifically for areas that may need systemic help, value stream issues…maybe areas in need of a time study or possibly a workshop.
So…the question is…how do I, the person who is running the meeting and trying to keep everyone to their time limits, and reeling folks back in from tangents…tell the Director and/or Super to…well…zip it? Or do I? This is the their meeting, I suppose, it’s just disrespectful to waste people’s time.
I love #1. My biggest issue is when you are invited to a meeting, but there is no value that you can add, but it is “compulsory” that you need to be there. I think it is very important to, before you arrange a meeting, decide who the decision-makers are and only invite them. Send them the info before hand which they can discuss with the non-decision-makers.
“The people who doesn’t have something to do after the meeting, shouldn’t have attended the meeting” – that summarizes everything. Great post!
Rule #1: Start the meeting on time.
Rule #2: If someone comes late, don’t review. But discuss with the person afterward to be on time.
Rule #3: Have a “parking lot” when the discussion heads to the weeds.
Rule #4: State the purpose (mission) of the meeting at the start.
Rule #5: Don’t include people that can’t contribute
Rule #6: By – By conclusion: “By whom, By when” or “Action minutes”
Of course limiting the meeting members will shorten the meeting time. Agile Project Management Training will make you still more clear on this.
When you consider the ‘all in cost’ of a 2 day meeting with 20 senior executives is about US$ 250,000 you would think CEO’s would take more interest in output. I wouldn’t disagree with any of the above points, we run high level C-Suite retreats and off-sites and when we ask a CEO how effective are those retreats now the average score is 4/10. The real problem is many people think their meetings are a great. As one exec boasted to me “Come on Ray any idiot can run a meeting? My reply ” That’s the problem there are too many idiots running meetings”!!
Great list! Number 5 is my favourite and I’ll be using that. I also like to schedule shorter meetings than most – for instance everybody tends to go for an hour by default. Why not 45 minutes? Or 30 minutes… or less?
Great list but I would add one more: only one person talks at a time. I’ve been in too many meetings where the host allows side conversations, and it’s very distracting and unproductive.
By far the most effective is to keep focused on the agenda item and turn tangent discussions back to the topic.
A good method is to have a monitor, that doesn’t participate directly, but observes the process and refocuses the discussion. The monitor should also critique the meeting and feedback observations.
I think it’s important to put responsibility on participants as well. If provided an agenda, read it and come prepared. If you feel you have nothing to contribute, ask to opt out. Stay focused and on topic. Any others?
What a lesson. Spot on. Enjoyed it, and now putting it into practice