A few weeks ago I found myself seated around a conference table with six other people for a meeting at my local high school. The meeting began at 1:00 p.m. It was a good meeting with all parties offering input and asking questions.
Around 2:30 p.m., I closed my notebook and started putting my pen and my phone in my pocket. My wife, who was also at the meeting, gave me a questioning look. She later told me she wondered what I was doing.
It was an instinctive move. I learned years ago that I my time limit for meetings is about 90 minutes. Of course, I have been in meetings that ran much longer than that, but my engagement level takes a huge plunge right around the 90-minute mark.
During my time working for corporations and as a board member for several non-profits, I applauded those meeting leaders who would come with a clear agenda and stick to it. When digressions from agenda topics would occur, the best meeting leaders would guide the discussion back on track.
Occasionally, as a meeting was winding down and about to be adjourned, a question would be raised that would lead to a lengthy conversation with several parties offering thoughts. For those of us with things to do and places to be, this could be frustrating.
My meetings with clients these days are quick and efficient, mainly because I come prepared and my clients and I have many other things to accomplish on a given day. When I meet with a person who is trying to sell something to me, I expect the person to be organized and ready to state his or her pitch and to answer my questions.
Here are a few tips for meetings:
- Ask yourself if the meeting is actually necessary. Could the exchange of ideas happen just as easily via phone or email?
- Make a list of agenda topics and stay on course.
- Impose a time limit on your meetings. If your meeting is set to last several hours, take frequent breaks.
- Limit small talk during meetings. Do that before or after.
- If a question is raised that cannot be answered immediately, save it for the next meeting.
- If you have a guest on the agenda, make sure the guest knows to be succinct.
- Take notes. It will help you recall what was discussed.
- If your input has been considered and rejected, move on. As they say, don’t beat a dead horse.
- If the meeting’s subject matter is dry and arcane, help others understand significant points.
- Silence your phone and turn it face down.