clock - how long should a meeting beWhen scheduling a meeting most people do not give too much thought to how long the meeting should take. When you create a meeting in Google Calendar or Outlook the default is one hour and many people just leave it at that. Since some attendees tend to show up late, you may as well schedule enough time. Or not?

Meeting cost

It is obvious that keeping meetings short will save your company money. Here are a few examples of the cost of a typical meeting per hour (not taking into consideration travel etc).

Sales team meeting Manager meeting Senior management
$60/hr Sales manager $60/hr sales manager $250/hr CEO
$200/hr 4 account managers $60/hr marketing manager $200/hr COO
$80/hr 2 support $60/hr controller $600/hr 3 Senior VPs
60/hr development
60/hr human rerources
$340 per hour $300 per hour $1050 per hour

Just imagine if you can save a few hours on meetings in your company each week, you can easily save hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Calculate the costs of your meeting.

Success and satisfaction

Of the factors that determine the success and the satisfaction of your meetings, setting the right amount time is one of the most important ones. There is a law of time management that says that tasks expand to the time that you allot for them. You will be surprised how efficient you can be if you have only a limited amount of time for your meeting in which you need to accomplish a certain number of tasks or discuss a certain number of topics.

Focus and attention

Aside from anything else, research shows that engagement in meetings starts to drop off quite rapidly after about 30 minutes. Attention levels drop quickly the longer the meeting lasts.

Time of meeting % of people paying attention
0-15 minutes 91%
15-30 minutes 84%
30-45 minutes 73%
45+ minutes 64%

It is safe to assume that after one hour you have lost half of the attendees. Now go back to the meeting cost calculator and see how much money that is!

So keep your meetings short!

Tip: make all your meetings 5 minutes shorter. Many of us experience many back to back meetings. Usually meetings start late because people have the “excuse” that they came from a previous meeting. Sorry that is not an an acceptable excuse and you should not accept that from your colleagues either.

To make sure this does not happen again in your organization, schedule your meetings to end 5 minutes before the bottom and the top of the hour. So your meetings will now be 25 and 55 minutes instead of 30 and 60 minutes. This gives participants time to go to the next meeting or dial in and start the next meeting on time.

A 25 Minute Meeting

With a mind-set of getting decisions made quickly and efficiently, a well-planned 25 minute meeting (your old 30 minute meeting) has the potential to achieve a lot. A short meeting like this for which an agenda with topics to be discussed during the meeting has been circulated in advance can clear up a number of different project issues or process questions quickly. It’s all in the organization beforehand as well as keeping on subject at the meeting itself.

An Hour Meeting (lasting 55 minutes)

An hour meeting might be appropriate for a topic that requires a greater depth of discussion. For example, the annual review is an example of a meeting that may require an hour, as there is a need to get into depth regarding what the employee has been doing, what they have achieved and what still needs to be worked on. Both participants in this case need sufficient time to be able to articulate their points to feel satisfied that the meeting was constructive. A project update meeting for a large project with several key stakeholders may also fit into this category, so that every business function has the opportunity to have just a few minutes to provide their update and ask questions.

A Meeting of More than One Hour

Try to avoid meetings that last more than one hour. In most cases these are meetings that are too long and not being sufficiently efficient with time. Very occasionally it may be appropriate to hold a meeting of longer than one hour. An example may be a quarterly board meeting or a meeting where a project manager, developer and business analyst may need to get right into the depth of different functionality that a new computer program needs to deliver to the business.

If you have a meeting that is longer than an hour make sure you include breaks. Above we showed you that after 45 minutes you have lost almost half the attendees. Take a break, give everyone an opportunity to check his or her email, stretch the legs and resume after 5 or 10 minutes with the next topic.

Meetings that last a day or longer

In almost all cases, meetings that last a day or more are far too long. Participants will not be able to stay engaged for any way close to that time – after all, remember the 15 minute drop off of engagement that we talked about at the start. All that a full day meeting or longer will lead to is a bunch of tired people that have lost interest. Instead, get organized and structured and plan meetings that can keep people engaged.

At times you do need to have long meetings, for example when a distributed team comes together for their annual gathering. In such cases you want to discuss as much a as possible with your team during those precious 2 or 3 days. The solution for these long get togethers is to divide the topics into different meetings, consider them all different meetings, each with their own agenda and be selective at who participate in each of the meetings. Try to make those meetings as short as possible with a very clear focus. It is OK if people during those days have some downtime so they can attend to any ongoing business and have informal chats with their colleagues.

How to keep your meetings short?

Prepare Document and follow-up
To keep your meeting short and effective make sure that you prepare (agenda), document (make notes, assign tasks) and follow-up (send minutes and track tasks). Of course the MeetingKing software will make sure you can do all of this efficiently!

For additional help on running effective meetings, please check our checklist for effective and productive meetings.