The 90-minute meeting limit – preparation

90If we’re going to set a 90 minute limit on meetings, I think that there are some issues that need to be thought through – starting with preparation.

The first act of preparation must be to clarify what is the meeting’s purpose. Is it for decision-making or idea generation? Is it for information sharing (in which case, we might want to re-think why a meeting is necessary or valuable)? Is it a regular management meeting? If so, is there a clear remit?

Gather the papers that will be needed for the meeting. Make sure that they are clear, concise and specify what each paper is intended to achieve. References to background material should be just that – references. If a paper needs to be lengthy, then it’s probably a meeting with a single agenda item.

Assess who should be there – the chair can invite, but each individual should be able to decline (usually). Don’t be there to ‘be there’; be there to contribute purposefully. Otherwise you’d be better making your contribution to the organisation by doing something else.

Decide how long the meeting will be – specify when it will start and when it will end. Clarify the expectations – i.e. starting on time and finishing on time, everyone must read the material in advance and arrive prepared to move things forward.

Finally issue an agenda that indicates precisely what is expected for each item – decision making, discussion, clarification, measuring progress. It might be an idea to group items according to their purpose. You may also want to apply a time limit to each agenda item. Then issue the agenda and papers sufficiently far in advance to allow each participant to prepare properly – the meeting isn’t the place to read the papers for the first time.

Feel free to add/challenge all of the above.

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