We previously posted a blog on how to reduce the number of meetings you attend. Once you actually step into a meeting, how do you make the most of your time in that meeting? There is always additional information or topics that tend to creep into the meeting which can either hinder or improve the effectiveness. Here are some steps to maintain your objective of the meeting and not go over the time limit.
- Create the agenda based on priority, putting the most important item as the first thing discussed, not the last
Attendees are most alert during the first 15 minutes of a meeting; that’s where the important topics should be discussed. If menial tasks or administrative items are discussed in the beginning (since “they won’t take much time”), staff are no longer paying attention when the main topics are discussed and now the meeting has extended past the allotted time.
- Designate others to be responsible for presenting certain items on the agenda, as well as being responsible for follow up after the meeting
This will help create ownership over the meeting for all attendees. Staff are more likely to pay attention and listen to ideas as they are presented. The meeting leader should not be the only one talking.
- Tell the attendees how long the meeting will take (at the beginning of the meeting and when it’s scheduled)
Everyone is “busy” and have other priorities, if you give them a frame of reference for how long they need to be engaged, they can give you their full attention.
- Keep meetings to 30-45 minutes if possible (or less)
Most individuals cannot process information after 15 minutes. And worse yet, they disengage after the first 3 minutes. If you can change topics, change speakers, provide a different pace every 15 minutes, the attendees stay engaged.
- If the meeting goes over the time limit – reschedule
Again, the individual’s time is important and should be made a priority. If you cannot accomplish what you need to in the allotted time, schedule another meeting (seems counter-intuitive, but it works). This will respect others’ time and keep them fresh the next time you have to reconvene. It might also mean, you did not come prepared with the right questions to get the answers you wanted. Re-think that agenda if you went over your allotted time. Did you come prepared with specific or open-ended questions?
Finally, as the leader of the meeting, keep the discussion focused. As people go on a tangent, turn them back to the agenda and ask, “have we accomplished this step, can we move on?”
We are always trying to find more hours in the day. Shorter meetings would be a great start.