It’s a proven fact that most employees really don’t like meetings. Unfortunately, they are a “necessary evil” for any company or organization to run smoothly. How can you develop a revolutionary product with a team of people if you don’t communicate or collaborate on a daily basis? Well, you simply can’t.
Team meetings provide the environment for employees to ask questions, align expectations, receive feedback, confirm assignments, throw new ideas and generally, work together towards a common goal. Without team meetings, your team members will become random individuals who just happen to occupy a certain office space with no direction, goal or purpose. You don’t want that for your business, do you?
Let’s say you have an important meeting with your team, regarding a new project. Do you think it’s all about showing up and discussing things? Definitely not. You have to prepare a meeting agenda, distribute it before the meeting, take meeting minutes and find ways to keep everyone engaged and alert. Most importantly, however, you have to utilize time management techniques in order to start and end the meeting on time, monitor and reduce unnecessary talks and strictly follow the allocated time for each agenda item. This is absolutely crucial for the success of your meeting.
By now, you’ve probably understood the importance of team meetings, especially if you’ve been a business leader or a manager for many years. What you have to understand now is how to make sure your meetings are productive and don’t occupy too much of your and your employees’ time as we all know, time is money. That’s exactly what we will be discussing today – how long should a meeting last.
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How Long Should a Meeting Last?
To be able to answer the question of how long should a meeting last, we have to explain a few important things about meetings and attending a meeting.
- Engagement Levels
You should take into consideration engagement levels before determining the length of any upcoming meeting. According to many researches, the engagement level of meeting attendees starts to dwindle after 30 minutes. After that, the attention span declines rapidly.
Don’t take it personally when it’s already been 40 minutes and you witness how your team members keep looking at their watches or smartphones, yawn or stop participating in the discussion. That’s just a matter of how our brains work. So, to make sure all important information is delivered, all tasks are assigned and all problems are solved within the first 30 minutes of the meeting, you have to learn how to speak clearly, straightforwardly and become a master in leading meetings. Which brings us to point number 2.
- Becoming a Good Meeting Leader
So, how long should a meeting last? That depends on how good of a meeting leader you are. A meeting leader is someone who takes specific actions before, during and after a meeting to ensure that a meeting will successfully reach its objectives. Some of these actions include scheduling the meeting, inviting participants, creating and distributing agendas, preparing conference rooms (or virtual rooms), taking meeting minutes, assigning action items and more. A meeting leader is also responsible for the progress of the meeting and whether it will turn out to be a fruitful and productive event that will benefit the team and the organization.
If you don’t create an agenda, don’t take meeting minutes or allow participants to change topics every minute, that means you are not a very good meeting leader. Naturally, this leads to an unproductive and lengthy meeting ending in no results. We’ve all been to team meetings where we stay for an hour and a half and leave with nothing but despair and no clue what we are supposed to do. Don’t be the reason why your employees feel this way.
- Know the Best Time to Conduct a Meeting
Are you sure scheduling a meeting right after lunch is the best choice? Do you really think that an 8AM team meeting will be as quick as you want it to be? The answer to both questions is a hard no! Scheduling meetings at unreasonable times is directly related to the length of the meeting. If you’re hoping for a quick, 15-minute daily huddle meeting at 8AM in the morning, you won’t get it. People might be late due to traffic, everyone is still sleepy and drinking their first coffee. How can you expect a productive meeting while everyone is yawning? Ultimately, your initial idea of having a 15 minute early morning meeting will quickly disappear when it’s already 8:30 and you’re still waiting for team members to arrive.
Let’s go back to our initial question – how long should a meeting last. When planning a team meeting, business meeting or any other type of meeting, aim at scheduling either a 25-minute meeting or a 55-minute meeting. Here’s why:
- A 25-Minute Meeting
Usually, a well-planned 25-minute meeting can help you achieve a lot. These meetings are not daunting, they are direct, straightforward and to the point. With a well-organized agenda, distributed in advance, project-related items and questions can be addressed quickly and everyone can go back to their duties.
If the purpose of your meeting is to have an update on an ongoing project and you have specific action items to allocate, you don’t have to wonder how long should a meeting last. Make it a 25-minute meeting and prioritize what’s important and what information should be delivered. Brake down the meeting into:
- Greetings and farewell sections, 5 minutes each.
- 15 minutes to determine needs, discuss important updates, share information, etc.
- 5 minutes to assign action items and discuss how to get those tasks accomplished.
This meeting format is great for keeping team members attentive and engaged.
- A 55-Minute Meeting
A 55-minute meeting should be saved for annual reviews, large company update meetings, strategy meetings or board of directors meetings. Basically, if you have to discuss a highly-important company or project-related issue with a lot of participants, you schedule a 55-minute meeting. A 55-minute meeting provides sufficient time to discuss critical points and ensures that the meeting will be constructive and have fruitful discussions and results. That is, of course, if you know how to lead a good meeting.
Cutting an hour-long meeting five minutes actually saves you a lot of time. That’s especially valid if you have meetings back to back and you don’t want to be late for your next meeting.
- A Meeting of More than One Hour
It’s not recommended to schedule a meeting that will last longer than one hour. After the first 40 minutes, your attendees will be absolutely “lost” and their productivity, focus and participation levels will significantly decline.
Still, if you absolutely have to have a longer meeting, the key is to include regular breaks of 5 or 10 minutes. Those breaks are crucial for your employees. They can check their email, go grab a cup of coffee and come back refreshed for the next part of the meeting.
How to Keep Your Meetings Short?
Let’s go back, once again, to our initial question of how long should a meeting last. Well, the ultimate answer is “as short as possible.” If you want have a short but highly productive team meeting, do the following:
- Start on time and end on time.
- If possible, end the meeting at least 5 minutes early.
- Have a precise agenda and strictly follow it.
- Monitor and manage discussions, unrelated to the agenda.
- Stay focused and own the meeting.
- Record meeting minutes and distribute them once the meeting is over.
- Utilize a meeting management tool.
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