The ROI of meetings decline as their duration becomes longer. It is easy to explain why by looking at the ROI equation below:
ROI = (Benefits-Cost)/Cost
If you lengthen the duration of a meeting, you increase its cost. However, you don't necessarily increase its benefits. People get bored, their brains becoming less and less engaged over time. They become exhausted by the minute. And exhaustion spreads like wildfire. Once you see one one or two people yawning or going out for coffee, expect to see all others doing the same too.
So how does one keep meetings short but productive?
One good practice we have at LegalMatch and Skimpl is to keep maximum meeting length at 30 minutes.
Before starting meetings, we list topics to discuss. Our list is usually short and focused. Just enough for 30 minutes. If the meeting is all about priorities for the week, we talk of nothing else but priorities for the week. If there are specific issues to discuss that might take time, we take them out of the meeting.
There are meetings which may take more time like those around proposal presentations or project reviews. We always advise people to follow a discussion outline to make the flow smoother.
For presentations, we like to keep slides to a maximum of 10-12. This is particularly easy to do for IT people because they hate making presentations anyway.
Meeting organizer/leaders play a big role in keeping meetings organized. They have the responsibility to keep everyone focused on the meeting objectives. From time to time, people stray and talk too much. We encourage them to keep focused or request for another meeting with relevant people if they need more clarifications.
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Ateneo Graduate School of Business
University of San Carlos