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10 commandments of meeting room time management.

27th May 2016

Here's some facts for you about the realities of meeting room time management. And... fair warning, you're probably going to want to sit down before you read these.

  • In the US alone there are over 11 million official business meetings each day.
  • That's around 2.6 billion meetings per year!
  • Annually, over $37 billion is wasted on unnecessary and unproductive meetings in the US.
  • $37 billion. That's the entire GDP of the Democratic Republic of Congo

So, what is causing such colassal waste? And how, if at all, can it be fixed?

One idea, why don't you and I arrange to have a meeting to discuss how we can fix this. I’ll send an invite to you without a clear agenda or purpose which I hope you’ll blindly accept out of politeness.

There will be other people there who you maybe don’t know and who are just as oblivious as to why they’re there as you are – it’ll be an hour long because that’s the default setting on my calendar events.

It’s optional to attend of course, but you don’t want to miss out on something that might possibly be important to someone who might be you… Or, you could just try following these 10 commandments of meeting room time management.

Meetings should be efficient, everyone in a meeting should be enabled to be as productive as possible. Time is valuable and the time set aside for a meeting should be used as cost-effectively as it can be.

Wall of clocks highlighting how meeting room time management needs to be improved

1. If you don't intend for a meeting to be a long event... don't even bother sitting down

Basically, if you're just meeting for 15 minutes or less, why waste time getting sat down, sorting out the table in front of you, all that general fidgeting that always happens but isn't needed. Also, and hear's the big meeting room time management bonus - if you're standing around and getting a bit uncomfortable, you're MUCH less likely to go off topic and waste time.

2. Try to have a regular meeting free day

Meetings are important, good meetings help us to do good work - some of them can be disruptive though for sure - you should try to limit their disruption to your day. Establish a company policy of a meeting free day, you'll quickly find that this will become your team's most productive.
Facebook have been doing this on Wednesdays since at least 2012, it doesn’t seem to have hurt their growth!

3. Challenge a meeting's very existence

Ever sat the whole way through some sort of lord of the rings trilogy length
epic meeting and thought to yourself, "yeah... this could have been sorted out with an email..." Speak up! In the long run, everybody benefits!

4. If someone doesn't need to be at the meeting, they shouldn't be at the meeting

One of the great evangelists of meeting room time management was the late founder of Apple, Steve Jobs. There's a great story of Jobs being about to start a weekly meeting with the ad agency they used, he set eyes on someone who, to him, looked out of place, and challenged her, "You, who are you and why are you here?"

She replied explaining that she had been asked to attend because she was part of a related marketing project. Jobs then told her, politely, to get out, "I don't think we need you in this meeting, thanks." It's that simple. Why waste time of people who don't need to have their time wasted.

5. Time Challenge the interruptions

It's too easy to say, "don't allow interruptions or tangents," in a meeting... sometimes they are essential, sometimes the best ideas can come from these - we're all guilty of it. But consider this, think of a meeting room like a courtroom. Imagine when a lawyer gets up to deliver the speech of their life, changing the opinion of everyone on the jury and ensuring a horrific miscarriage of justice doesn't happen... but the judge says, "You have one minute... go."

Establish a set of guidelines among your team, let them know that they can interrupt and go on a tangent if they want, but they will have 60 seconds to explain why it's important enough to disrupt the meeting. If, at the end of 60 seconds, it was important enough, then you've gained something, if it wasn't then you've only wasted 60 seconds.

6. Don't procrastinate

Your time is important, meeting room time management is even more important, why? Because it's not just your time that's being used, it's everybody else's time too. Try to completely eliminate procrastination. I have a great anecdote about procrastination, you'll love it... but I'll tell you it later, we're both too busy learning how to ace meeting room time management.

Infographic showing Meeting Room Time Management and some of the statistics showing why this needs to be improved

7. Be prepared for a lock-in

Meetings are important and essential to businesses, some of them are even SUPER important and SUPER essential to the business and all rules of meeting room time management go straight out the window. You've scheduled 2 hours for the meeting, you're 1 hour and 58 minutes into it and you've barely scratched the surface.

If you think that a meeting has the potential to be marathon, advise people in advance, it's not fair that meetings interrupt other scheduled activities, at least if there's a possibility in advance that this could happen, they can prepare for it. And if it doesn't go the full distance, everybody wins.

8. Be sensible with time

Why does a meeting have to be an hour long? If you set an hour for a meeting, 6 subjects and approximately 10 minutes per subject... maybe you should only have 5 subjects, you're asking for complications to arise here. Sure, you need to get everything done, but maybe 2 separate meetings, breaking the subjects up, with room to spare, is the answer.

9. Know the goals, know the roles

Each meeting should have a defined set of goals, thought not too many. One idea is to assign a "goalkeeper" for the meeting, if the time set aside for subject A looks to be getting away from you, the goalkeeper is tasked with speaking up, "Guys, we've 10 minutes left here to discuss how to spend our entire budget for this year... and we've not even really started." Never underestimate the importance of having at least one person who is dedicated to staying on track.

10. Structure, Structure, Structure

Urgent beats Important. Important beats General. Simple. If there is something urgent that the meeting simply HAS to get sorted, it goes first. It can be tempting to start a meeting light, end it light and tackle the big goals in the middle... what if the clock isn't on your side? You simply have to be brutal with your priorities. Urgent > Important > Other Stuff.

11. Bonus: Be properly equipped

Why would you go to the effort to hold a meeting - one of the dozens you're probably going to have this week -and not be as equipped as you could be. Would you go without a pen and paper or a laptop? Would you go without the information you're discussing? A Wireless Presentation System is right up there in the list of essentials.

With Montage, meeting attendees can simultaneously stream content from their devices to the meeting room screen, whether they’re in the room and remotely. Remote attendees can not only share content from their devices but communicate at the same time via video & voice. Pairing this with the tools that come built into Montage, such as; annotation, whiteboarding, file-sharing and so much more – these are all tools that, when in your meeting room arsenal, makes your meeting room time management that much easier to organise, streamline and get into.

Next steps...

101 Ways to be More Productive

You may also be interested in our blog post 13 Words & Wireless Collaboration Increased Marketing Leads by 30%.

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