Three Techniques for Keeping Meetings Brief

Three meeting tips

Meetings don't need to be inescapable personal productivity sinkholes. Here are a few techniques that can help your meetings stay short and to the point:

1. Time Boxing

Time boxing, when it comes to meetings, is a pretty literal concept: use other events to box your meeting into a fixed, inflexible window.

But flexibility is good, right? Not when it means having a 30 minute staff meeting run for an hour past its deadline.

The idea behind time boxing isn't to limit the number of discussed items; it's to limit the availability of the meeting's attendees so people will naturally keep things short.

Meeting time boxing

All of these meetings use the same conference room; neither the staff meeting nor the sales meeting are going to be able to run long, given that the people in subsequent meetings are going to be knocking on the door trying to get in. The first meetings are boxed in by the subsequent meetings, thus they can't really spill over into someone else's meeting.

2. Moderation

Attendees and presenters can help each other stay on track and keep things short with a little self-moderation. If the meeting has been stuck on a single topic too long, someone can simply say "let's move on to the next agenda item." Be careful not to insult or cut off other attendees though.

Meeting moderation

You can also have the meeting organizer handle all of the moderation. People are often more comfortable with a single person dictating the pace and it may result in less hurt feelings.

3. Discussion Limits

Larger organizations limit discussion time for large meetings, Congress being an example. Discussion limits can work in one of two ways:

  • Before the meeting is held the agenda is distributed to all attendees and any attendee who wishes to speak during a certain agenda item must say so beforehand and will be allotted some time to speak accordingly. Each action item has a fixed amount of total discussion time and that time is divided among the speakers.
  • There is no planning beforehand, but each agenda item has a fixed amount of discussion time; the discussion will continue until time runs out and a decision is rendered.
Meeting discussion limits

Discussion limits might be overkill for smaller organizations, but they are essential for really large meetings.

Once your meeting runs beyond a certain time threshold then each additional minute becomes less productive than the last; keeping your meeting framed under real-world time constraints is essential to ensuring productive meetings.

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