Starting and stopping on time is easy. One person with power simply has to decide to care, the rest follows.
Having recently survived a tragicomic 8 way international conference call, an experience worthy of the 4th level of hell, I’m here to offer 5 honest tips that would have saved the day:
- If you called the meeting, do your %*?@?! job. Everyone claims they know about facilitation, but few do it. If you called the meeting, it’s your job to 1) get there on time 2) write a bullet list agenda on the wall 3) Manage the conversation so no one hogs the floor and the right people get a voice at the right time 4) make sure side issues get delegated out of the room. If you don’t do all 4, any meeting problems are your fault.
- Meetings start when royalty arrives. Watch the behavior of the senior person on a team. Most meetings won’t start until they arrive and people know it. If the VP is never late, no one else will be either. If the VP is always 10 minutes behind, everyone else will follow. If you’re a team manager, and meetings always start late, know (and blame) thyself. If you need a VP/VIP know where they’ll be before your meeting and escort them yourself.
- Someone must enforce the clock. Every meeting should start with someone assigned to watch the clock. I don’t know that you need a giant clock like Google is claimed to use, but it’s someones job to say “We’re 20 minutes in”, “we have 15 minutes left”, “we have 5 minutes, so lets wrap up”. You’d be amazed how many meetings ramble for half the allotted time on topics not central to the reason for the meeting. Three breakpoints are all you need to remind everyone to stay on track.
- Plan to end 5 minutes early. It’s insane but in all our infinite wisdom we continually plan meetings back to back with zero alloted time to get from meeting A to meeting B. Whose idea was this? If you always go to the last second, or go over, guess what you’re doing? You’re screwing over the next batch of meetings people need to get to. You’ll make unexpected friends by always ending early, which is easy if you watch the clock.
- Only have meetings that matter . If you had a meeting called “Lets discuss how awesome you are and how we can triple your salary” people will arrive right on time – the concept of a meeting isn’t bad, it’s what you fill it with that matters. If everyone is always late they’re telling you: this meeting is not important. Either learn how to make the meeting worthy of their time or don’t have the meeting. Ask for opinions at perennially late or poorly attended meetings: why does this meeting suck? How can this be more useful? Is there a better way to |insert why you think you need a meeting here|?
Also see, The 22 Minute Meeting.