Business owners and managers go to meetings – it’s a fact of business life. The Friday morning recap, the morning task meeting, introduction of new software – meetings are important, no doubt. However, they can also eat up time, waste time, and have you asking, “Why am I even here?”

However, meetings don’t have to be Black Holes where time stops. Follow these easy tips to avoid a meeting marathon and get everybody back to work ASAP.

1. Define the objectives of the meeting.

If you don’t know the purpose of the meeting, you may want to find out beforehand. It’s nice to have some background and context, especially when the meeting host is introducing new information.

2. Create or review the agenda.

If you’re running the meeting, prepare a list of topics to be covered. Prioritize the list from most to least critical. Also, once an attendee’s business is covered, don’t make them sit through endless discussions that don’t affect them. If you don’t need an employee at the table, let them get back to work.

Eliminate anything that isn’t essential for this meeting – topics, slide decks, and people. Keep the guest list as short as possible to avoid wasting time and creating chatter around the conference room table.

3. Set a time limit. Then, cut it by 50%. Skip the chit-chat and get straight down to business. If you plan for a 60-minute meeting, chances are you’ll have a 60-minute meeting, even when it’s a waste of time. So, plan for 60 minutes. Then design a meeting you can host in 30 minutes with handouts and other takeaways.

Don’t waste your valuable time explaining something that you could write in a one page summary: “Here’s what we’re doing, here’s how we’re doing it, this is the expected result.” Boom. You’re out of there.

4. Stay on point.

If you have an agenda, you start at point 1, move to point 2, until all topics are covered. Don’t wander. Don’t share pictures of the kids. Tell your team the purpose of the meeting (context, again), start at the top of the list, work through each point, ask for questions.

5. Take away the chairs.

What a concept. If all meeting participants are standing, you know the meeting will be a lot shorter than if they were all sitting in comfortable chairs drinking great coffee. Hold your meetings with everyone standing in a circle.

6. Disconnect

Cell phones off, “DO NOT DISTURB” signs hung, tablets and laptops off. No distractions. There’s nothing more frustrating for the person leading the meeting than to look around and see people texting or checking emails while important information is being discussed.

7. Stick around for a few minutes.

Don’t immediately head back to your office after a meeting. Stick around. Some employees may ask for additional input, some may be shy about asking questions, and some may provide useful feedback right from the start, so spend a little time chatting up your managers before getting back to your office.

8. Skip the business lunch.

Want to have longer meetings that cost the company a few hundred bucks? Hold the meeting at the local hangout. Once you drive there, get a table, hear the specials, place your order, and eat lunch, there’s no time left to talk business.

The exception is when meeting a new client or top-tier manager. In this case, a business lunch is less formal, enabling you to learn about your new department head or the needs of a prospective client.

9. Shake things up.

Listening to department heads drone on about quarterly performance may require at least two cups of highly-caffeinated coffee to stay awake. Perhaps some of this information can be sent out in advance for staff to read.

Do something different now and then to break up the monotony of regular business meetings. Don’t set off fireworks or create distractions, just manage the meeting in a different sequence, or have a senior manager host the meeting while you sit back and observe the team at work. 

Don’t let staff sit in the same seat all the time.  Make them move around and get a different perspective.

10. Pick the right time to meet.

Each day, employees go through a work cycle. Some discover piles of folders on their desks each morning, while over there they send out daily numbers just before closing. Choose the time that’ll have the least impact on work flow.

Meetings can be quick, directed, and deliver the results you need now. Or, they can drag on for hours due to a lack of preparation.

Get more from your meetings. Get organized.


The information provided is presented for general informational purposes only and does not constitute tax, legal or business advice.