Here’s to Shorter Meetings, Fewer Meetings

shorter meetings
Here’s to shorter meetings

Every company that I’ve ever worked for, whether as an employee or a consultant, has had way too many meetings in my opinion.  I’ve attended meetings designed to prepare for another meeting.  I’ve also seen people lead meetings who use up every minute of time allotted.  If a half-hour meeting finishes in twenty minutes, they figure out some way of extending the meeting to its allotted time.

Meetings do serve a purpose. We can’t just eliminate them altogether.  We just enable meeting abuse by allowing people to take them too far.

I’ve always believed in calling meetings only when necessary. But even then, there is the problem with necessary meetings going too long.

Meeting-scheduling systems like Outlook usually default meetings to a minimum 30 minutes for a duration.

But you can modify the start and end times to whatever times you want.  Using this ability, I sometimes schedule meetings for 15 minutes, especially if I only have a few agenda items which will require limited discussion with only a few people.

For further reading check out How to Facilitate Project Communication

The advantages I’ve found with a fifteen minute meeting include:

  • People are more likely to be on time for a 15-minute meeting.  Being a few minutes late for a one-hour meeting is a small percentage of the meeting.  Being a few minutes late for a 15-minute meeting is much more significant.
  • Due to the shorter duration and because people are more likely to be on time. Shorter meetings usually start on time.
  • Attendees are usually more engaged in a shorter meeting.  It has a more focused agenda and as soon as it starts, the attendees see a light at the end of the tunnel.  Minds are much less likely to wander.

Obviously a 15-minute meeting is not always appropriate.  Meetings will sometimes require more time depending on the content and purpose.

Related post: The Case for Toys in Meetings

The main point is, when you schedule a meeting – and you have verified that the meeting is actually necessary, think about how long the meeting needs to be and see if things can be accomplished in fifteen minutes.

Additionally, when you are invited to meetings, question whether you need to attend each one.  If your direct input isn’t required, ask yourself:

  • Can I skip the meeting and review the meeting notes?
  • Can someone else be my proxy in the meeting and provide me an update later?
  • Do I even need an update from this meeting?

People make a habit of attending every meeting they are invited to, wasting time and creating too many attendees at meetings. This causes meetings to last longer than necessary.

While meetings are a necessary evil, there are steps we can take to make them less evil and more necessary.

If you would like to learn more about a career in Project Management, get Lew’s book Project Management 101: 101 Tips for Success in Project Management on Amazon.

Please feel free to provide feedback in the comments section below.

Copyright 2014 Lew Sauder, Inc.