By Karey Rees:

I don’t know about you, but one of my biggest frustrations in the workplace is meetings that go on long past their scheduled time allotment or those that finish within their scheduled time, took a crazy turn, went completely off topic and seemed to accomplish nothing related to the original meeting subject.  I’m sure most of you can relate, so I’d like to share my experience about a recent meeting I was in and how it influenced me to improve the ways I’ve conducted all my meetings since.

Not so long ago I was invited to attend a meeting via conference call. The meeting was scheduled for 30 minutes and was to cover quite a bit of material and training. I automatically blocked out 60 minutes on my calendar as past experience has told me, many times over, the meeting would last quite a bit longer than the scheduled 30 minutes. I dialed in, connected to the assigned WebEx screen and introduced myself to the other attendees. The meeting sponsor started the meeting immediately and explained there was only 30 minutes and all topics to be discussed had to be completed in those 30 minutes, no exceptions. Guess what? It got done – really. As I sat in amazement during this meeting about how much was discussed and accomplished in a very short period of time, I made sure to listen as closely as I could to learn this meeting magic.

After several meetings with this meeting sponsor, I’ve learned and now use the following to lead all my group meetings:

  • Schedule your meeting for the time you truly think you can accomplish what needs to be done and stick to that time frame.
  • Throughout the meeting, remind attendees of the topics at hand and how much time is left to discuss the topics.
  • Be sure to speak up and let someone know if they are off topic. Make sure to let them know you will follow up with them to discuss what they would like to talk about and also include any other people who may be needed. Most of the time, the off-topic items can be discussed and resolved very briefly after the meeting.
  • If the meeting topics truly do not fit in the allotted time, schedule a follow up meeting instead of going over time and creating conflicts in others’ schedules.
  • Be diligent in moving along the topics of the meeting, keeping careful watch of the time.

I hope these points are as helpful to you as they have been to me. What are some of the things you’ve done to successfully keep meetings within their scheduled time allotment?

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