Dear Meeting Guru,

"How do you decide how long is long enough for a meeting? What is the most effective method for eliminating items from your meeting that are for only one person in the meeting and not for the whole group?"

Verona, NY

Blessed Meeter,

Basically, there isn't an ideal amount of time to allocate to all meetings. In fact, most meetings must be considered on a case-by-case basis. When planning a meeting, evaluate the amount of information that must be addressed. Then consider the degree to which each agenda item must be discussed. Only then will you be able to allocate an appropriate quantity of time for that particular meeting. Remember to be realistic! Don't try and squeeze too many agenda items into your shorter meetings. You'll end up going overtime and participants will become frustrated.

Here's another tip to keep in mind – the meeting should adjourn the moment the meeting objective has been achieved. Don't continue meeting simply because it's what the schedule dictates! Even if it's 20 minutes early, finish once the group has reached its meeting goals.

Also, when planning how long your meeting will last, don't forget to include breaks. If your meeting lasts longer than an hour, take 10-minute breaks every hour.

If you notice an agenda item that is simply there to inform one person in the meeting and not the whole group, suggest that it be covered off in an e-mail. Meetings should be used to make decisions, solve problems or brainstorm, not to update. Instead of meeting, try sharing information via e-mail or by posting reports on the company's network. Not only will this help your group eliminate many of its meetings, but it will also help people stay informed. Doing this might also help eliminate those agenda items that apply to only one person in the meeting and not the whole group.

Also, if you're planning a meeting, ensure that all the agenda items relate to the meeting's objective. If a suggested agenda item doesn't directly apply to the objective of the meeting or the participants, then recommend that the item be discussed in a different meeting or that an e-mail be sent to the appropriate individuals.

Below, you'll find some links to related articles on

To Meet or Not To Meet… That Is the Question

Spend Less Time in Meetings

As the wise philosopher Confucius once said, "To speak when there is nothing to be said; this is imprudence. To be silent when there is something to be said; this is deception. To speak without paying attention to the expression on the person's face; this is called blindness." In other words, a wise man knows when to speak and when to be silent – even in meetings. By sharing the information here with the other meeting participants, you can help them understand when they should be sharing information and when they should not.

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

Read meeting dilemmas solved by the Meeting Guru.



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