A couple of weeks back I was chatting with a buddy of mine about meetings. That time we were specifically discussing church meetings that he usually attends. We go to the same church but he pastors a congregation somewhere. He was remarking about how the meetings he attends typically stretch to even 4 hours. These meetings usually happen several times a month, almost weekly. Our discussion went on for quite a while because we did note that meetings should not be too long. Meetings are inevitable in every sphere of life, particularly in business and entrepreneurship. That is why today I am looking at how long meetings should be.

Meetings Differ But The Principle Is The Same

There are so many different types of meetings. Some can span several sessions over consecutive days. Some can just be a day-long but with several sessions. Then we have the regular ones e.g. daily, weekly, or fortnightly, amongst others. The universal principle I am referring to is how long a typical meeting session should be. The issue of lengthy meetings is complained about by the majority of employees, management (and many more) the world over. So how long should a typical meeting session be?

Ideal Meeting Session Duration

The key principle is that it should be as short as possible. The moment a meeting stretches for too long, it is usually because of discussing irrelevant topics. At times it is because of poor moderation that there are digressions from the core issues. In most cases, it is redundancies or repetitions that stretch the meeting durations. The ideal meeting session duration varies but should be anything from 15 minutes to around 45 minutes. Less than 15 minutes would be too short and beyond 45 minutes, too long. In most contexts, the average meeting session duration of choice is 30 minutes. This implies that if a meeting has multiple agendas, each session should be that long. In such scenarios you need to include breaks in between so as to keep participants optimal.

Important Considerations

Implications On Workflows

It is vital to consider the implications of meetings on productivity. If meetings are too lengthy they negatively affect workflows and compromise productivity. That is why it is wise to convene meetings in a way that does not disrupt workflows. For example, you can have meetings before the commencement of a work day. Alternatively, you can convene one after closing the business of the day. It could be possible to convene them on weekends. For as long as you are wary of not making the meetings too lengthy, there will not be disruptive consequences.

Attention Spans

People can maintain fully engaged attention for 15 minutes or less. Anything beyond that would be pushing their limits. That is why some meetings end up being monologues. Break out of the belief that the longer the meeting is the more productive it will be. The ‘less is more’ mantra does apply here.

Meetings Are Not Always Necessary

One of the things that lead to lengthy meetings is holding unnecessary meetings. There are certain matters that can be deliberated on using other means. For example, some issues can be discussed via say, a WhatsApp group. Some matters can be best handled by sending out an email and people responding with their input. These are just two examples I gave but you can figure out more. Meetings have got to be kept at a minimum by all means possible. Only convene a meeting when it is necessary. By only convening meetings that are necessary you have better chances of keeping them brief.

This subject can be hard pill to swallow especially for superiors. There is need for a mindset shift regarding this matter. Meetings, if improperly handled, can be counterproductive. One of my colleagues from somewhere, a business executive, believes a meeting should roughly be 30 minutes long (or less). As much as scenarios vary but I do concur, that meetings should be brief. You will notice that when you limit meeting durations, it primes participants to be objective. I have noticed that the shorter the allocated time, the more you strive to cover only the essentials.