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Westside Toastmasters is located in Los Angeles and Santa Monica, California

Cut Meeting Time in Half

Almost everyone agrees that too much time is wasted in meetings. It doesn't have to be that way; that time can easily be cut in half.

In a program with client, we discussed the principles of running more effective meetings, which they called a code of meeting ethics. I like the name as a way of emphasizing the respect that people need to give each other in order to have meetings that work well. The list includes seven items and is shown on the next page. Some groups have principles such as these posted in any meeting they hold as a way of reminding people of how they have agreed to conduct their meetings.

As a sales professional, if you are running the meeting, take advantage of the code of meeting ethics. If you are a meeting participant, suggest to the meeting facilitator that you persuade the group to agree to follow this code. Put it on display. People who have adopted just the time-allotted agenda and the timekeeper ideas are enthusiastic about the results in time saved.

All the items listed will work for audio or video teleconferences as well as face-to-face meetings. Be sure to cover these principles at the beginning of the meeting and get concurrence from people to adhere to them. If you find that your meetings still last too long or aren't as focused as you would like, don't discard these suggestions. Give them time. It may take three or four meetings before people get comfortable working within the new parameters.

People who have used this approach have told me that their meetings are shorter and more productive. They say no one would ever want to return to the unproductive meetings they had before. I believe you can cut your meeting time in half and get more done when you follow these practices.

Code of Meeting Ethics

  • Have a clear purpose or objective for the meeting. (For example, to gather customer data or to present a customer proposal.) Otherwise, don't hold it.

  • Start on time and end on time.

  • Make the meeting shorter rather than longer. If anything, end a few minutes early.

  • Have an agenda. Send it out before the meeting. Stick to it.

    • Use a time-allotted agenda (a start and stop time for each item on the agenda).

    • Have a timekeeper (someone who keeps the meeting on time).

    • Have a gatekeeper (someone who keeps everyone participating).

  • Be respectful of others' points of view. Avoid sidebar conversations. One person talks at a time.

  • Summarize decisions, people responsible for follow-up, and due dates. Develop an action plan; set the next meeting dates in advance.

  • Ask people to turn off cell phones while in the meeting. Minimize interruptions.

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