Setting Realistic Meeting Timeframes Part II

Building an agendaIn recent discussions online and with colleagues who are event planners and facilitators, the frustration of trying to produce results within unrealistic timeframes is still being identified with increasing frequency. Event planners may find it helpful to borrow from zero based budgeting to build agendas. Start with a blank canvas and use mind maps or infographics to identify key meeting building blocks with realistic timeframes.

The Opening (1 - 2 1/2 Hours) - Longer timeframe includes buffer for internal meetings.

To set the stage and prepare participants for the content and approach. 

  • Session Starter: (15 Minutes) Provide an opportunity for participants to interact in small groups to generate content that will be used later in the meeting. Save icebreakers, a turn-off for many participants, for receptions. Instead, pose questions related to meeting content and give participants an opportunity to share relevant experiences.

    Session starters cover meaningful content and provide a buffer so that latecomers don't derail meetings or miss important content.
  • Opening Remarks: (15 Minutes) Clarify objectives, review the agenda and cover housekeeping details.
  • CEO Briefing: (30 - 60 minutes) Allocate sufficient time for the CEO (or senior executive) briefing. As we have discussed previously, allocate an extra hour as a buffer as CEO briefings tend to run overtime
  • Opening Keynote: (30 - 60 Minutes) For public conferences, keynotes replace the CEO briefing that is used for internal corporate events.

Business Agenda Items

Here are suggested timeframes 4 main types of content:

  • Presentations with Q&A and Discussion (30 - 45 Minutes): Keep these brief as attention spans tend to be short. If there is a lot of content, present it in 20 minute segments and break it up with time for questions and discussions.
  • Working Sessions: (1 - 2 Hours +) Give small groups specific business issues or agenda item to analyze (30 - 60 minutes), time to prepare (30 - 60 minute), and present recommendations (5 to 10 minutes per group). Allocate the higher timeframe when complex analysis is required.
  • Panel Discussions: (30 - 60 Minutes) Consider improving panels by making them interactive, otherwise, keep them short.
  • Breakouts: (1 - 2 Hours)

Team Building (1/2 Day to 2 Days)

Here are detailed tips for setting realistic timeframes for team building. Add the opening, recreational components and meeting agenda items to this suggested timing.

Team Recreation, Socials or Galas

These activities are just for fun and not intended to replace team building. Remember, team building is not a half-day recreational event.They can take the form of outdoor or indoor activities (1/2 day) or an evening gathering that includes a reception and dinner (3 Hours). 

The Closing (1 1/2 - 2 1/2 Hours)

Participants often criticize meetings as "a waste of time" when they are not linked to their day-to-day realities. Next steps and follow-up strategy formulation bridge this gap. Closings often include:

  • follow-up strategy sessions in small groups, beneficial for intact teams or cross-functional teams that will continue to work together (30 - 60 minutes)
  • a short panel in which the groups present their follow-up plan (30 minute)
  • a high energy and targeted closing keynote (30 - 45 minutes)

If you require more time to cover all identified content than your executive team can allow, rather than cramming content into the meeting, let senior management know how much time you need to trim and identify agenda items that should be cut and alternative strategies for presenting them. To create effective meetings, quality is more important than quantity.

For more tips, also read Of What Value Is a Packed Agenda? and Setting Realistic Meeting Agendas and Timeframes

Photo Credit: cogdog

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