17 Tips for Designing Shorter Meetings Without Short-Changing Attendees

Short-ChangedWith leaner organizations, heavier workloads and an increase in time pressure, no one has the luxury of sitting through long meetings especially if they are boring. As we discussed in Shortcuts Short-Circuiting Corporate Events, in the push towards shorter meetings, there is a threshold beyond which attendees get short-changed.

Here are 17 tips for designing short meetings without short-changing participants.

  1. Identify the portions of the meeting that are primarily one way presentations to provide information.
  2. Experiment with sending pre-communication packages and presentations via e-mail as well as mobile applications, virtual and hybrid meeting formats for pre-meetings to deliver this content.
  3. Create a grid identifying meeting agenda items and the attendees that must be present to make decisions or having input with regard to specific issues and topics.
  4. Set the core meeting time for when the majority of attendees must be present.
  5. Schedule a pre-meeting for attendees who have issues to address that are not relevant to the majority of participants.
  6. Schedule an afternoon meeting. By default, the time-frame is longer than a morning meeting.
  7. Select a theme that underscores the core message or purpose of the meeting.
  8. To ensure that everyone is present at the start of the meeting, kick things off with an early lunch (11:30) using an interactive format that reflects the meeting theme. (Ask participants to come to the meeting room and brown bag it if there is no budget for providing lunch.)
  9. Park mobile devices at a charging station to minimize mobile device disruptions.
  10. Start on time. (Review  16 tips for reducing lateness.) 
  11. Experiment with alternative formats for short presentations (e.g. Pecha Kucha, Ignite, TEDx Talk, Prezi). 
  12. To keep things interactive, upbeat and on-track, use a professional facilitator for breakout groups (i.e. either external or from your training or Organizational Development department). Consult Building Better Breakouts for more tips.
  13. Select a unique setting for breakout groups or brainstorming exercises (e.g. outdoors, picnic tables, lunch room, lounges).
  14. Create a visual and tactile interface for brainstorming sessions (e.g. butcher block paper covered tables,
    game cards,  giant index cards or post-its, game boards).
  15. Use a creative method for groups to present the results of their breakout sessions (e.g. collages, storyboards, TV commercials, infographics, Instagram, Pinterest).
  16. Identify next steps and review which attendees have been assigned which tasks.
  17. End no later than 4:30 to give attendees a chance to respond to urgent emails before the day ends.

Photo Credit: Beige Alert

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