My meetings are so long! What can I do to make sure they don't drag?

By Anh Tran 

Meetings have become an essential part of our working life. Love it or not, meetings help us to generate new ideas, make decisions, share information and assign tasks. I personally like meetings where I can listen to and learn from diverse views, and where members have the freedom to express their voices and ideas. 

There are good days when my meetings are short, sweet, concise and each of us is clear of what we are supposed to do. But there are also bad days when meetings drag to become unproductive and energy-sapping. If you have eight hours in a typical working day, an hour-long meeting would consume an eighth of your working day. Imagine you have five meetings during the day, that leaves you with just three hours to do your other work. If the meeting involves members from different functions, levels of productivity would suffer more. 

So the question is, what can you do to avoid having a meeting that drags? I believe that as a team member, you can suggest the following in order to have effective meetings that you enjoy:

Watch the agenda

Ensure that you have a clear agenda that is made known to others before the meeting. This will help clear up all possible confusion before hand. Each item on the meeting agenda should be limited to a fixed duration based on the importance and urgency of the subject matter. Typically, the meeting chairperson is the one who decides on the time allocated for each segment. 

It is also important to have a time keeper for the meeting. Time can fly by fast, especially when you are in the ‘flow’. It is a good practice to assign one member to be a time keeper and remind everyone that the time permitted is running out. Once everyone is aware of the time, drawing the meeting to a close gets faster.

Stating the fact, not making a point

Sometimes meetings can lead to heated discussions where strong voices clash. We could let our ego get in the way instead of coming to a consensus. Personally, I always try to adopt the four dialogic practices when transmitting one message: Listen, Suspend, Respect, Voice. 

Listen: Listen to what is unsaid 

Respect: Honour the other party’s viewpoints

Suspend: Stop your own flow of thought to consider what others have shared

Voice: Express your own conviction with courage 

Closing the meeting 

By the end of the meeting, you should have crafted a concrete ‘Actions to Take’ section with a person-in-charge assigned for every action. Set a timeline for those actions and set a date for the next meeting!

I hope you start to enjoy meetings where you can interact with others and understand more about how other teams function. All this eventually leads to a deeper knowledge of your organisation! 

Do share with us your thoughts on how to conduct effective meetings that do not take more time than they require at!