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How to Hold Productive Meetings

Scott Berkun vents about a recent meeting by generating a great list of meeting facilitation tips:

How to start meetings on time (the honest version)

If you called the meeting, do your %*?@?! job. Everyone claims they know about facilitation, but few do it. If you called the meeting, it’s your job to 1) get there on time 2) write a bullet list agenda on the wall 3) Manage the conversation so no one hogs the floor and the right people get a voice at the right time 4) make sure side issues get delegated out of the room. If you don’t do all 4, any meeting problems are your fault.


Someone must enforce the clock. Every meeting should start with someone assigned to watch the clock. I don’t know that you need a giant clock like Google is claimed to use, but it’s someones job to say “We’re 20 minutes in”, “we have 15 minutes left”, “we have 5 minutes, so lets wrap up”. You’d be amazed how many meetings ramble for half the allotted time on topics not central to the reason for the meeting. Three breakpoints are all you need to remind everyone to stay on track.

I absolutely agree. This is one of the things I really like about meetings in the Longfellow Community. Getting people to volunteer to sit on community boards is never an easy task, so being respectful of volunteer’s time is critical to volunteer retention. By having alloted times to cover issues, people stay on point and keep rambling commentaries to themselves – at least during the meetings. If a meeting is scheduled to run from 7-9, that’s what happens.

Having facilitated meetings and worked as time keeper, I know how hard it is to stay on task, but it’s really critical to the long-term success of an organization. The kind of people who show up to meetings are generally pro-active go-getters who are VERY busy already. If you don’t respect their time, they’ll stop showing up and all you’ll be left with are whiners who want to be heard but won’t act.

As a rule, any meeting will take as long as the time alloted. If you schedule 2, 4 or 8 hours to solve a problem, that’s how long it will take. The biggest reason for this is because people can only concentrate for so long. They’ll basically devote the same number of brain cycles to an issue no matter how long the meeting is scheduled for.

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