Effectively Managing Meeting Time | Meeting Facilitation Training Tips

Tips for effectively managing meeting time:

The Problem:

Let’s face it – one of the reasons why many people hate attending meetings is that they too often drag ON and ON and ON with no end in sight!  We’re all frustrated by the meeting leader who drifts casually from one topic to another during the meeting with very little regard for time.  Not only does this waste everyone’s time but it also irritates participants (who may become turned off and hesitant to participate in future meetings).  You don’t want to be one of those meeting leaders.  Let’s explore a few tips you can use to better manage time during your meetings…

Consider these suggestions….

  • Include specific timings for each agenda topic (not just for the overall meeting). This enables you to determine more realistic time limits for the entire meeting and also positions you to better monitor timing throughout the meeting.
  • Set realistic agendas! Some leaders’ meetings always run late because the agendas aren’t realistic at all.
  • Ensure you have identified a process (or facilitation method) to use for each agenda topic. In other words think through how you’re going to manage each section before you get there!
  • As the meeting leader, you should role model timeliness by starting on time (even if all participants aren’t present), ending on time, and keeping to specified time breaks.
  • Establish an odd start time (e.g. 9:10 instead of 9:00). This slight adjustment sends a signal that you’re serious about time.
  • Ask someone to act as the timekeeper (and rotate this role). This gets participants involved in the meeting management and also sends a clear signal to everyone that you respect their time and intend to stick to the predetermined time limits.
  • For conference calls, empower all participants to help keep the group focused (and on time) by hitting the # key anytime they feel the discussion is becoming too protracted. This works particularly well because it’s anonymous – no one knows who hit the # sign!
  • Actively use the parking lot to “park” off topic issues and questions
  • Ensure you assign time consuming tasks as homework to be completed prior to the meeting. Don’t try to use meeting time to conduct these types of tasks (e.g. reviewing documents, doing research, conducting detailed analysis, etc.)  Check out next month’s Monthly Tip for more information on how to do it!
  • Use timers to help manage the agenda or a particular discussion (as needed). Sometimes just having a timer in the center of the room can act as a powerful visual cue that the leader is serious about managing time effectively.
  • Suggest that everyone stand (and keep standing) if the discussion becomes too long winded.
  • Place sensitive issues towards the end of the agenda (as long as that placement makes logical sense). If there’s an explosive issue that might generate a lot of discussion, it’s better to tackle it near the end of the meeting.
  • Actively manage rambling discussion (see the 9/09 monthly tip for detailed suggestions on how to do it!)

This video provides insight into how to improve your status meetings…

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