Good Meetings: Timing

We all feel like we spend too much of our precious time in meetings. Too often, the weekly and daily meetings expected of us at work drain us of energy, after interrupting us from never-ending task lists.

What would it mean to you if the meetings you participated in provided energy and purpose and direction, rather than just being a big energy suck?

The next time you get to plan a work meeting, avoid adding to employee dis- or un- engagement. Put some effort into make your meeting productive. This is the third post in a series of four about how to run better meetings at work. The topics we’re covering are:

Today we’ll focus on the idea of timing. There are two, complementary ways to think about the timing of meetings: there’s getting the meeting scheduled, and then there’s amount of time needed for the meeting.

Getting the meeting scheduled

There are two approaches here: Try to work with people’s schedules and find a time that works for all or most, or, set a meeting time and stick with it - those who can make it will attend and those who can’t won’t.

Which approach you choose depends upon both your personal preference or comfort level, and the type of meeting you’re holding. One of my clients has me facilitating meetings of a national planning committee on a monthly basis; for the kick-off call, we’re surveying people to find a time that works for as many people as possible.

When another client hired me to run my Listen! How to Be a Better Manager training, he set a time several weeks in the future and requested his managers participate, with encouragement from the company COO. The key in this situation is to be clear about any ramifications that might exist for missing the meeting. (For this client, it was simply that anyone who didn’t show missed the professional development opportunity.)

In either situation, it’s best to be clear in communicating how you schedule for each meeting:

I’d like to have as many people participate as possible, so I will choose the time that the most people can attend.

OR

It’s important we hold this meeting on this date for x reason. I’d love it if you could all participate, but if you cannot, let me know and we’ll find a different way for you to share your thoughts/needs.

How much time for your meeting?

No one likes to be stressed out, but, for better or worse, a little rush helps people focus. Research demonstrates that the amount of work there is to be done often expands to fill the amount of time you have. And while there is certainly such a thing as a meeting being too short, often if you schedule it just a few minutes shorter than the time you think you need you can wind up with a more focused group of people and still accomplish the meeting’s purpose.

All of this comes down to: Consider your timing well. Avoid going with the default in your calendar app, whether that’s one hour or 30 minutes. Think about using a weird length of time - like 47 minutes or 23 minutes or even something as short as 11 minutes.

It may seem counterintuitive to have a happiness at work expert, someone focused on strengthening social connection, advocating shorter meetings. But how many times have you felt like you have so many meetings, you can’t get any work done? And too often meetings that drag on and on just zap you of energy and then you find it harder to connect with your coworkers. So go for it: make your meeting shorter!

 

Too difficult to find the right time to meet? Consider these alternatives to meetings:

  • An online poll

  • A phone call

  • A huddle

  • An email thread

  • A chat room

  • A video announcement

 

Have questions or comments about this post or our series on good meetings? Let me know!

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