7 Tips for Cutting Your Meeting Time in Half
Do you notice that when you've got only 15 minutes to get something done, you do it? But if you've got an hour to do the same thing, it often ends up taking that long?
Take meetings, for example. You're running a one-hour meeting. You might start right on time, but that's not usually the case. Most often we wait for the stragglers who might show up 5, 10, and sometimes 15 minutes late, or even later! There goes the first quarter-hour. Now you've got 45 minutes remaining.
I'm reminded of the adage, "Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion." This saying, called Parkinson's Law, was first published in The Economist in 1955 as the first line in a humorous essay by Cyril Parkinson. But honestly, it's not that funny when you're in a meeting or you're running a meeting and only about 30 minutes of the 60 you had set aside actually ends up being productive.
Why not just cut out the filler and get right to the meat of the meeting? Every meeting doesn't need to be cut back like this. But for those that do, here are 7 tips for making these 30-minute sessions productive.
1. Let it be known to everyone that your one-hour meetings - whichever ones you decide on - are now 30-minute sessions. Give people a couple of week's advance notice of the change to give them time to adjust.
2. Advise them you'll be starting and ending on time, no matter what. And you have to keep your word on this.
3. Don't provide food even if the meeting is close to or during the usual lunch break. People will figure that they can arrive late because everyone else will be noshing and chit-chatting over the goodies. And then there's the attention people devote to making sure the mayo from the sandwich they're eating doesn't drop on their stuff. That eats up, so to speak, some of your precious meeting time! And given that it's only a 30-minute meeting, there will still be plenty of time for lunch.
4. Tell them that their smart phones and laptops need to be left at the door. After all, these meeting minutes will be jam-packed, so there won't be any time to check email or text. If you don't want to tell them that in advance of the meeting, then when they get there, ask them to put the electronics aside. Because you've got so much going on in the meeting that requires their attention, they'll see right away that there's no downtime available for them to shift their focus.
5. Keep the meeting lively and moving; no long stories on the why and how if that input isn't relevant to the topic at hand. You can do this by reminding people that, "We only have 30 minutes, so let's keep moving." Keep a friendly tone, but do say it like you mean it. It won't take too long before they get with the program.
6. Be diligent about moving side conversations off-line.
7. Genuinely thank people for their sticking to the time line. That's the best reinforcement for the next time.
People might be a little put off by this at the start. But when they see that they've got the extra 30 minutes in that hour left over for themselves, it won't take long before they are completely bought in and are soon running 30-minute meetings of their own.
(c) 2010 Denise Brouillette, San Francisco, CA. All Rights Reserved. This article may not be downloaded, photocopied, reprinted, or distributed electronically or by any other means without this paragraph accompanying it. www.LeaderXpress.com