Popular complaints about meetings include poor content management and late finishes. The solution: keep your eye on the clock and navigate through content with a degree of urgency.
Meetings should have a clear agenda with some buffer for discussions and questions. This enables you to systematically punch through meeting topics. If you email the agenda to meeting participants beforehand, they can prepare ideas, answers and materials that will advance the meeting agenda efficiently and effectively.
A great tool to keep meetings on track is a digital egg timer available at any electronics or kitchen appliance store. Keep it in plain view to remind participants that you are traveling on time’s winged chariot and consuming our most valuable commodity. This time awareness decreases the number of digressions, redundant comments and sidebar conversations—all of which create unproductive meetings that encroach upon peoples’ tight schedules. It’s a quick and cheap solution to a pervasive and expensive problem.
When I deliver a presentation, I keep a digital clock on the table in the front row. This allows me to steal a glance at the clock to match time and topic without extending my arm to check my watch and give the illusion that I’m running late or timing a medication. I can pace myself without anybody knowing I’m skimming over, or drilling down, on information.
The same timer tactic is used during political debates and in Congress. A green light during rebuttals means you have time, amber means either thirty seconds or a minute before you need to close your commentary, and red means your time is up. It keeps individuals and entire panels disciplined and on track. If you experiment with this tool, you’ll marvel at how staff meetings shrink to fit the allotted time.