Running efficient meetings: How to wrap things up under 45 minutes

By Robert Half on 13 December 2021
Estimated Read Time: 3 minutes

It’s not always easy to run successful meetings, let alone ensure people are happy to attend.

Meetings that go on forever aren’t just bad for employees’ morale – they can also take a huge toll on a company’s resources in the long run.

And yet, it seems altogether impossible to do away with them completely, as meetings often serve to ensure that everyone is on track and working towards the same goals.

As a rule of thumb, meetings should not go on for longer than 45 minutes. Any longer and you risk losing the attention of everyone present. It’s entirely possible to keep meetings short, and productive.

Here are five easy tips on running efficient meetings to implement straight away:

1. Running efficient meetings requires having an agenda

If you’re the manager calling for the meeting, make sure you send an email to everyone involved so everyone’s on track about what it entails.

This will ensure that the stakeholders come prepared with their necessary reports or status updates. Use bullet points for greater clarity.

And with an agenda, it’s advised to have the person setting it be the moderator as well to ensure that the topics don’t stray off course.

If done right, meetings should wrap up on time. If there’s more to discuss, ask if people can stay or plan on a separate discussion later.

Related: 7 key employee engagement factors that really matter to staff

2. Ensure presentations don’t go on for more than 10 minutes

The most productive meetings are the ones where everyone is engaged and ready to contribute, so starting a meeting with a presentation that goes on for 40 slides will kill the pace of an efficient meeting.

If presentations are necessary, use them to make larger, more important points, and keep the nitty-gritty for further discussion in a smaller group setting.

Those who know how to run successful meetings understand that a key part of the job is steering attendees in the right direction. If people get off-track, direct them back to the agenda.

Related: The benefits of mentoring in the workplace

3. Ban tech devices

Another time wasting item is having to repeat a point because someone was too busy checking and replying their emails.

To ensure this doesn’t happen, enforce a rule where no one is allowed to bring their laptops or smartphones into the meeting room.

If taking notes is necessary, tell employees to do it the old-fashioned way: With a pen and paper. Get all digital distractions (where possible) out of the way so that participants can focus better.

Related: 3 signs of struggling office morale and how to counteract them

4. Choose a meeting time wisely

Mondays and Fridays are probably not the best days to call for meetings; people may be slow to start their engines at the start of the week, or watching the clock on the last day of it.

The time of the day is an equally important factor to take into consideration.

If you have the meeting first thing in the morning, people might come under-prepared.

Meetings held before lunch (as long as you don’t overrun to lunch), or around 3pm between Tuesdays to Thursdays might just be your best shot.

Related: How to motivate staff, and why it matters

5. Have everyone stand up during the meeting

When scheduling a meeting in a traditional conference room, it's tempting to ask along every single person who may be connected with the subject.

When you're planning a walking meeting, you have to be more selective about who you invite. And, with only the most relevant people present.

Research has shown that meetings that are conducted with participants standing are not just shorter, they are also more productive than the ones done sitting.

When everyone is standing, there is also the chance that their tech devices are out of reach.

Related: Why is employee engagement so important?

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