You were meant to be in an hour-long meeting, but ... it’s been almost two hours and someone just said, “one more thing...”
*cue the eye-rolling*
Long meetings are frustrating, especially when they don’t have a clear sense of direction. People start to get restless. Engagement starts to go down. Soon everyone is conjuring plans to eliminate meetings altogether.
But the reality is, meetings are still important — they’re where crucial decisions are made for your organization.
So what’s the solution?
As with many things, meetings are good in moderation. The answer is to limit the amount of time spent in meetings so that productivity remains high. Here’s a guide on how to strike that perfect balance between meeting time and time to complete your actual work.
Why long meetings aren’t productive
Long meeting times keep people preoccupied with activities that don't necessarily translate to actual work. When team members aren’t engaged, the chances that they’re scrolling social media during the meeting go way up.
In one relatively recent survey in 2019, 67% of employees said spending too much time on calls and in regular meetings prevents them from making an impact at work. Too many meetings can put a strain on company finances, too, with reports showing that poorly organized meeting time cost the U.S. economy $399 billion in 2018.
Here are some specific reasons why your organization should avoid long meetings.
❌ Decreased productivity and morale
Long meetings increase fatigue, which can lead to low morale and low productivity.
When people spend too much time in virtual meetings, they start to feel restless. If this happens often enough, people begin to feel that meetings at the organization in general are a waste of time — which can erode morale more quickly than you’d think.
❌ Bad meeting culture
If long meetings go uninterrupted and unmoderated, you’re creating a bad meeting culture. Poor meeting culture tends to snowball into larger problems: an inability to get into the right workflow, bad relationships between colleagues, and a lack of trust in senior management to lead the organization.
How long is too long for a meeting?
The ideal length of a meeting depends on the type of meeting you’re having.
If you’re holding a decision-making or recurring meeting, like a stand-up, 25 minutes or under is a good length.
Some meetings need to be longer: weekly/monthly reviews or brainstorming meetings can take up to an hour.
But certain meetings can take longer than 60 minutes, like strategy meetings. In those instances, you should take breaks so that people can refresh their attention.
6 effective ways to shorten your meetings
Short meetings are better meetings. Here’s how to reduce meeting time in a way that keeps decision-makers happy and everyone productive:
1. Always have a meeting agenda (and stick to it!)
An agenda serves as a framework for all meeting participants, so they know the purpose of the meeting.
It’s important to create an agenda before scheduling meetings, so you can send it with the invite. To do this easily, you can use Vowel.
When you schedule meetings with Vowel, you can include meeting objectives ahead of time and mention team members who need to prepare.
2. Invite the right people
The expression “too many cooks in the kitchen” applies to meeting culture. One of the most common mistakes teams make is inviting too many stakeholders to meetings. More opinions aren’t necessarily better … it’s just more.
Limit your meeting’s attendance to two types of people:
Decision makers: People who need to sign off
Doers: People who need information to complete a task or project
3. Schedule shorter meetings
You don’t always need to schedule for a full 30 or 60 minutes. Why not schedule your next meeting to be 20 or 40 minutes long? Good time management doesn’t always mean defaulting to a calendar setting.
4. Share pre-meeting materials asynchronously
The first few minutes of a meeting are typically for sharing background information. You can cut down on this time by sending review material ahead of time as part of your meeting agenda. You can even go a step further by explicitly asking that people come to the meeting prepared to jump right in.
5. Start promptly
This needs to be your mantra if you want short meetings. Sooner or later, it’ll become a part of your company’s meeting culture.
Always start meetings at the designated time. People may miss the small talk, but they might get over it when they see how short and productive meetings have become.
If you expect latecomers, continue the discussion without a recap — but encourage them to review recordings, notes, and transcripts for what they missed after the meeting. Vowel’s transcription feature makes it easy for people to reference what they missed, so they don’t interrupt the meeting as it’s happening.
6. Record your meetings
When you record your meetings, you’ll be less likely to repeat yourself. Attendees will know they can reference a recording or transcript after the meeting to get the clarity they need.
Vowel’s meeting workspace makes it easy for anyone who needs clarity to jump to the context they need after the meeting. No one needs to say anything more than once, the meeting ends on time, but everyone still has what they need to complete their tasks.
Have shorter and more productive meetings with the right video tool
If you want to have short but effective meetings, you need a system that supports the kind of meeting culture you want to have.
A good meeting culture means time-tracking, collaborative agenda creation, transcription, clip creation, and more — which is Vowel in a nutshell as a go-to meeting space.
See for yourself: sign up for free today!