Shorten those meetings without cutting quality

business meetingMeetings that are unfocused and long-winded are the bane of many managers’ lives. When planning meetings, try these strategies to cut meeting time:

• Time your meetings to end at lunch or quitting time. Participants will be more likely to move quickly through agenda items so the meeting will not run long and encroach on their personal time.

• Try stand-up meetings. If you have only a few short items to deal with, gather everyone together in a corner of the office and avoid letting people get settled in comfy chairs. Stand-up meetings encourage faster decision-making, and studies show that the quality of those decisions is equal to that of the ones produced by longer meetings.

• Assign time limits to agenda items. When people contribute topics for discussion, ask for their estimate of how much time the topic will require. Indicate these time limits on the agenda. This practice will encourage participants to wrap up their discussion within the allotted time. If a topic seems to warrant additional time, ask the group members whether they would like to defer other agenda items so they can continue their discussion or table the item until the next meeting.

• Don’t allow lengthy discussion of items that concern only a few members of the group. If two people are getting deep into a topic that affects no one else, suggest that they meet later to discuss it on their own and, if necessary, make a report at the next meeting.

• Discourage “FYI” items from being put on the agenda. Find other ways to circulate information that simply needs to be communicated. An email blast will probably suffice.

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