How Long Should Your Meeting Last?

Meetings have been around for a long time, but in the last few years, as our attention spans have been declining (thanks to the fast-paced digitized, social-media run world we live in), meetings have yet to adapt. Back in 2017, a study indicated that employees spent about 35 percent of their time stuck in meetings, with managers spending nearly 50 percent of their time in them. In short, a lot of productive work time was being consumed.

One of the biggest challenges an employer can face is wasted time. And often, time wasted is the result of inefficient meetings.

So exactly how long should meetings last? And how can you make your meetings effective and efficient?

The Ideal Length of Time for a Meeting

While multiple opinions exist, a Forbes article recently identified 25 minutes as the ideal amount of time a meeting should last. Of the factors that resulted in this 25-minute time, the following are relevant to any meeting when considering how long you should schedule it for.

  • Optimal time needing for people to focus
  • Too much time can lead to distractions and irrelevant conversations that start as way to fill voids in time
  • Individual productivity may decrease as the size of a meeting group increases

How long you actually set your meeting for is up to you, but other studies support the idea of shorter, more focused meetings. Our recommendation is to employ a 30-minute rule of thumb: Keep most of your meetings at 30 minutes or less. And if you do need to go longer, be particular about who you invite to ensure that the individuals you’re asking to be there are needed for the purpose of the meeting, relevant to the discussion and/or goal in mind and are the ones who will positively contribute to a productive outcome.

Making Your Meetings Effective and Efficient

An effective meeting is one that has a clear goal in mind, stays on-track and doesn’t waste attendee’s time. One of the biggest reasons meetings can go on and on, and on, is that people don’t always think enough about them. Donna McGeorge, author of The 25 Minute: Half the Time, Double the Impact, said the following about this issue in a recent Forbes article:

“People aren’t conscious about them,” she says. “It’s become a default way of operating. When a problem emerges, that first instinct is to go to a meeting. People aren’t prepared, and then they feel obliged to invite a cast of thousands to it.”

On that note, let’s look at some things to think about to help you better prepare and plan upcoming meetings.

Here are five ways to help make your meetings more effective.
  1. Ask if you really need a meeting.

    Sometimes an email is all you need, so before booking that slot of time on the calendar, ask yourself, “Can I relay this information or ask sufficiently in an email?” If the answer is “yes” – get typing and don’t click that “schedule now” button.

  2. Set a time limit for brainstorms.

    Meetings to spark ideas and generate collaborative conversation can be impactful. But they can also derail quickly. For meetings where ideas are key, set a time limit so that you can keep people focused and ensure that generated ideas are heard, captured, and catalogued for review later. (Don’t review in this meeting. Let everyone get their ideas out and then take a break so the team can come back with a fresh perspective to review and then narrow them down.)

  3. Identify a meeting leader.

    Usually this is the person who sets up the meeting in the first place, but if not, it’s important to identify a meeting leader. This person will start the meeting by stating the goal, help keep the conversation focused, and ensure that meeting time is used effectively, as well as provide follow-up communications afterwards.

  4. Plan the meeting in advance – with a clear goal in mind.

    A meeting without purpose is a waste of time for everyone involved. Effective meetings are planned. When planning, consider the goal(s) you’re setting, the background you need to provide to attendees, what resources or explanatory information and materials will be required, and who is on your attendee list.

  5. Set and stick to an agenda.

    Finally, the best way to manage a meeting and keep it short is to create and share an agenda. This will help keep everyone on the same page and reduce wasteful distractions or discussions.

Simplify Meeting Planning with Technology

A final note, meeting planning can also extend to the technological solutions in place to manage meeting spaces and resources. Another way to further maximize meeting efficiencies is to reduce the wasted time spend trying to put the meeting together. Finding and booking an appropriate meeting room, inviting attendees, and booking services like catering can be overwhelming and time-consuming without the right tools.

Add-On Products offers Resource Central, an add-on for Microsoft Outlook® and Exchange, that can help you quickly and easily plan and book meetings, saving you time so you can focus on more critical tasks.

Having an effective meeting starts with planning and booking your meetings efficiently and continues with keeping the five tips in mind from above.

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