Everything I Know Can be Said in 15 Minutes
Can you just get to the point?
How often have you been in a meeting and had this thought flash through your head. You are not the only one. The modern business meeting has turned into an activity bound by the clock versus the amount of information to be conveyed. I recently attended a 90 minute team meeting. The gist of the meeting was:
- Group Performance – We are not where we want to be, but things are getting better (no specifics given).
- Project overview – review of a project that I was not interested in.
- Diversity – We have an active program to address under represented populations and to address their higher levels of attrition. As part of this you are required to attend a mandatory training class.
- Annual performance – Make sure you set your goals and we are working to standardize the process based on the pilots we ran last year. Details to come.
The meeting started late as they got logistics finalized and ran over as each section went longer than their allotted time. So bottom line 105 minutes to cover 15 minutes of relevant content. And people wonder why meeting participants multitask.
We have all read about effective meetings, but then why are so many of our interactions so ineffective? It is not just meetings, it is emails, phone calls and updates.
So how do you get to the point?
Remember it is a matter of respect. Everyone is busy. And one of the first thoughts needs to be that the person you are talking to has graciously granted you a part of their precious day and you should respect that gift. In being concise and to the point you are acknowledging that gift and respecting their time. That doesn’t say that you dispense with the pleasantries of interpersonal relationships. But it does say that you are purposeful in your interactions.
Preparation is paramount. When asked about the time it took him to prepare his speeches, Woodrow Wilson is created as saying, “It depends. If I am to speak ten minutes, I need a week for preparation; if fifteen minutes, three days; if half an hour, two days; if an hour, I am ready now.” Spend the time to prepare and organize your thoughts. What is the purpose of this discussion, what are the points that I need to get across and what do I expect to come out of this meeting, email or phone call.
Let the content drive the time not the clock. Just because someone has an hour available on their calendar does not mean that you should take it all up. An telling someone that you have just “given them back” 30 minutes when the meeting ends early is not a good thing. What you are telling them is that you failed to prepare. The 30 minutes that you are giving back to them is not really productive time since they will then need to get back into their planned tasks for the day.
A study by Gloria Mark at UC Irvin found:
“… about 82 percent of all interrupted work is resumed on the same day. But here’s the bad news — it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to the task.”
So the meeting attendees have time to just get back into the task they were working on before your meeting, when the next task or meeting at the top of the hour comes up.
As presenters of information it is incumbent upon use to make the most efficient and effective us of other people’s time. But also as participants it is important for us to stop people who are squandering our time. You can stop them, and gently guide them to why are what here and what do you need? This is an opportunity to coach other team members, so don’t waste it by disappearing behind your laptop and working on something else.