Dear Meeting Guru,

"My group consistently goes overtime during our meetings. I've tried everything and can't seem to get everything covered and wrapped-up in the allotted time. Its frustrating because I'm wasting too much time in meetings! How can we cover our agenda items and finish the meeting on time?"


Blessed Meeter,

There are several things you can do to help your group stay on track and on time.

1. Carefully plan your agenda.
Always prepare your agenda beforehand and distribute it to all participants before the meeting begins. This allows participants adequate time to prepare and also gives them information about what needs to be accomplished during the meeting. When you prepare the agenda ask yourself, Am I being realistic in the amount information we can cover in this amount of time? Perhaps you are trying to cover too much material.

2. Have someone time the meeting.
Using a timer during your meetings can help keep presenters on track and on time. Give each presenter a one minute warning to let him know his time is almost over. If this technique seems too obtrusive, there are more subtle methods of timing during your meetings. Meeting software packages are available that will time agenda items for you. SMART Meeting Pro, for example, has an automatic Topic Timer that counts down the allotted time for each agenda item. If the speaker goes over time, then the Topic Timer turns red and lets him know, in a more discreet manner, that he's gone over time.

3. Avoid being side-tracked.
If people start asking questions that are individual concerns or don't directly apply, make a note to examine these issues after the meeting to see if another meeting should be held to discuss them. If side issues surface, suggest that the presenter send an e-mail to address these issues after the meeting, or, if a particular subject requires special attention, recommend that another meeting be scheduled.

4. Evaluate your meeting process.
Evaluating the meeting process helps your group be aware of any unproductive behaviors. Use the last few minutes of each meeting to evaluate your meeting process. Ask the group questions such as, What worked well in this meeting? and What can we do to improve our next meeting? Doing this will set meeting standards and will also help participants become more aware of what they can do to improve the meeting process. This is also a way for group members to express meeting concerns in a polite and delicate manner.

When feeling frustrated by your meetings, please remember what Confucius once said, "Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall." In other words, don't despair. You will learn from your meeting mistakes and will become a better meeter because of them.

Until next time…may good meeting karma always be with you!

Read meeting dilemmas solved by the Meeting Guru.




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