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How to Reduce the Time a Meeting Requires – tip 13b

September 23, 2011

OK, imagine you’re leading the meeting at 4pm today and you’d like to get
it to finish in 30 minutes instead of an hour, while still covering everything
that needs to be addressed.  What do you do in the meeting?

I’m guessing what you are thinking, and actually you just missed it.  What?�
Go back, before the meeting and let me show  you something I’ve learned.

Have  you noticed how that saying things concisely is not a skill or
liberally given to all?  OK, that registers, right?

How about this one.  Have you noticed the number of people that feel
need to say a point two or three times before finishing?

What’s with that?  I’ll explain in second, but the point I wanted to make is
very few people efficiently present, discuss and conclude in a concise manner.

OK, so people aren’t concise.  But that’s only part of it.  But let’s just guess
for a moment.  Does that mean most people take let’s say 3x to make
presentation or a point in a meeting, as it should take if they were concise?
You got it.  Did you notice the 3x?  That’s a big difference, but there’s more.

Let’s say someone is relatively concise and they get through what they want
to say in one pass.  Let’s say they talk for 5 minutes to present their point.�
That would be roughly 1 to 1.5 pages of information if they were to write it out.
Do you know how long it takes you to read  a page to a page and a half?  It
takes approximately 1 minute.

So let’s add this up.  By being verbally tangential and/or repetitive, most people
use 3 times the amount of meeting time that should be required to present
a point.  And, get this – if they were to write it out, it would actually take 1/5
the time to read as they are requiring time on the meeting floor.

Those are big numbers.  1/3 the time.  1/5 the time.  What if those were
additive?  Let see if it normally requires me 10 minutes to talk through
a point, then if I was really concise I might get that to 3 minutes, but
actually if I printed it out, it would only require the other participants
a minute or less to come up to speed.  From 10 minutes to 1 minute.

So what’s the catch?   Why doesn’t everyone submit their topic, the facts,
what they want, etc. in writing?

Big drum roll…………  How would you fill that in?  Remember this could
mean you will get through that meeting at 4pm or much sooner.  So don’t

The answer, like most things in the world, is that nothing is free, especially
higher performance and in the case of meetings it means that people
have to spend more time preparing for the meeting, instead of showing up
and winging it, joining the discussion… oh boy here we go again.

Ok, so tip 13b is succintly this… –  Have people present their topic
in a written form
and save the dialogue for Q&A, discussion and final decisions.

But wait a moment, doesn’t that mean everyone who presents will have
to spend more time getting ready for a meeting?  Yes it does.  And let’s
look at the math on that one as well.  If it takes you an hour to write up
your presentation, which moves your presentation from the 10 minute
meeting spot mentioned above to a 1 minute read and let’s say there are
10 people in the meeting.

If I’m that presenter it took one hour out of my schedule, but I saved
the group of 10, 9 minutes.  So I traded 60 minutes of preparation for an
90 minutes of savings in the meeting.  I’m still up, even though the
number’s don’t as overwhelmingly attractive.  Actually John Tropman,
in his book, Making Meetings Work, reports the average is more like two
to one.  Two hours of savings for every one hour spent in meeting preparation.

There’s a host of other benefits from having the initial presentation for each
agenda topic written out.  Better focus, better outcomes, better meeting
process… I could go on, buy you are probably already ahead of me.

Oh, and that point about why do people say things 2 – 3 times.  It actually
has a number of roots.  Sometimes it’s a:
– Comfort thing, they keep reworking the material until they feel comfortable
they not left anything out… that you understand,
– Control thing, I’m going to hold the floor awhile, I kinda like it,
– Waiting for the brain to catch up, repeating is a way to allow the brain to
catch up and figure out what we’re going to say next or be asked next.
There are a lot more possibilities, but that’s three I commonly see.

Bottom Line:
One especially effective way to reduce the time spent in your next meetings
is to require participants to submit the presentation (on the screen via a
projector or printed, either is fine) in a written instead of verbal form.

Take a look at the ebooks and video’s I have on Creating Meetings that
Take Half the Time and are Twice as Effective at my new site

1 Comment. Leave new

Great blog. After reading, I can certainly improve on being more concise. I also have tendencies to give updates about everything although people are asking about just one thing. My mind tells me “oh boy, here’s my chance to address everything I did not have a chance to communicate earlier in the week” and I wind up bombarding people with too much information at once.


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