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Do we really need to meet for an hour?

As we discussed in our online meeting facilitation tip #1, knowing our meeting purpose is essential to figuring out who needs to participate and how long we need to meet. We have a tendency to schedule most meetings for an hour and then figure out what we are going to talk about within that time frame.  Or knowing that we have an hour, we tend to “fill up” that hour. In our current state of online meetings still primarily being our only meetings, we definitely need to connect but we also need to give ourselves some margin. So how can we figure out how long is really needed for an online meeting? Is it possible for us to transition some of our meetings to be really short – even 15 minutes? Join me this week as I highlight three questions to ask that will help you know how long your online meeting needs to last.

  1. Why are you meeting? If this is a standing meeting then you may want to create a standing agenda that focuses on problem identification, problem solving and decision making and then you “fill in” specifics for each week. While updates can be helpful, for a group that meets regularly, it’s best to put most “updates” in email and then save meeting time for the kind of work that can only happen when you meet together. The only caveat here is to share successes. Sometimes we get so focused on problems that we DO need to include a moment to celebrate too – maybe that is also part of your standing agenda! If you are creating this meeting for a specific purpose, then spend some time thinking about what you need to do to accomplish this purpose and how much time is needed. If you can focus your meeting on one purpose, you may be able to reduce your meeting time to be less than an hour. If you have an “impromptu” meeting about a topic, it is likely you can keep it to less than an hour as well. Depending upon your purpose, it may be important to meet for longer than an hour – but be sure you set that expectation and include good discussion/breaks to keep people engaged!  
  2. Who is participating in the meeting? Is this a group that rarely meets together or is this a couple of your closest colleagues that you meet with all of the time?  If you are meeting as a group and you only meet once per quarter or once every six month, you will likely need a slightly longer meeting in order to accomplish your purpose and to provide enough time to connect with one another and discuss the topics. If you are a group that meets together weekly or even monthly, you may be able to reduce your time to be shorter and focus on one or two topics that need group discussion and decision making.
  3. What can only be done during the meeting? How many times do we ask this question? We often schedule a meeting to work on something but we may not try to consider what aspects of the work are essential during meeting time and what could happen before or after the meeting. The answer to this question is one of my favorites when it comes to coalition building – “it depends.” If you have a brand new group meeting together, you may need more “meeting time” to accomplish your work together than if you were a group meeting together for a long time. If you have a group that is having some relationship challenges or trust issues, you may need to do more work during the meeting together to also build trust in the process. Some folks will work best in a “meeting setting” than working on their own so perhaps you have very small group meetings focused on a particular project. Other folks will work much better on their own and need time to work on things by themselves before coming back to the overall group. While the answer may be variable, asking the question is very important so that you can make the most of your meeting time together. 

So what about you? Do you think any of your meetings may be able to be less than an hour? Why or why not?

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Photo by ahmet hamdi on Unsplash

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