Meeting Tips

7 Ways to Stop Your Meetings From Running Over Time

Published
December 28, 2023
Read time
6
Min Read
Updated
January 3, 2024
Jenna Pitkälä
7 Ways to Stop Your Meetings From Running Over Time
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Are your meetings constantly going off track and dragging on?

For a meeting leader, there are many strategies that help avoid this problem for your next meeting, whether it's physical or online.

Let's see what they are.

(1) Define Specific Group Meeting Objectives

Setting clear objectives is key for preventing a meeting running over time. It helps everyone understand the meeting's purpose, keeps discussions on track, and simplifies decision-making, especially in long meetings.

Here's a more detailed approach:

Figure Out the Main Goal: Start by asking, "What do we need to achieve in this meeting?" It could be making decisions, generating ideas, solving problems, or sharing information. Knowing this helps shape your objectives.

Make Objectives Clear and Achievable: Utilize the SMART method. Objectives should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. For example, instead of a broad goal like "discuss marketing," choose something more specific like "decide on the marketing budget for the next quarter."

Connect to Bigger Goals: If your meeting is part of a larger project, break down the big project goals into smaller ones that can be tackled in each meeting.

Get Input from Others: Before finalizing the objectives, ask for opinions from those who will attend the meeting. This ensures that the objectives cover all important areas.

Keep Objectives in Sight: During the meeting, keep the objectives visible, perhaps at the top of your agenda or on a screen. This reminds everyone what's important.

(2) Prioritize Who to Invite

Carefully selecting attendees is crucial for keeping your meeting within its scheduled time frame. Here's how prioritizing your invitees can make a significant difference:

Relevance is Key: Only invite individuals who are directly relevant to the meeting's objectives. This focus ensures that discussions remain on-point and reduces the likelihood of diverging into unrelated topics.

Decision-Makers First: Make sure that key decision-makers are present. Their absence can lead to inconclusive discussions and the need for additional meetings, which prolongs the decision-making process. On the contrary, when they are present, solutions often come up more quickly.

Limit the Numbers: A smaller, more focused group is often more effective. Larger groups can lead to longer discussions as more people are likely to want to contribute, potentially derailing the meeting's focus.

Pre-meeting Brief: For those who need to be informed but are not essential to the discussion, consider a pre-meeting brief instead of an invitation. This keeps them in the loop without adding to the meeting's attendee list.

Assess Contribution: Regularly review the list of attendees and their contributions. If certain members consistently do not contribute to meeting objectives, consider whether their presence is necessary.

Clarify Roles: Clearly define each attendee's role in the meeting. This not only helps with maintaining focus but also ensures that everyone understands why they are there and what is expected of them.

Consider assigning a meeting facilitator to oversee the application of the strategies in this blog if you find them challenging to follow.

(3) Create and Share Agenda

Once you know the objectives, you can use them to create a practical agenda.

Here's why creating an agenda and sharing it to participants before the meeting is important:

More Focused Discussions: One of the primary benefits of an agenda is its role in keeping discussions focused. When each topic is clearly outlined as an agenda item, it becomes easier to stay on track and avoid straying into irrelevant subjects. This focus is essential for maintaining the productivity of the meeting.

Better Time Management: By allocating specific meeting time slots to each item on the agenda, participants become more mindful of the time they spend on each topic. This helps prevent any single item from monopolizing the meeting's time, ensuring that all important matters receive due attention.

Preparation: An agenda shared in advance allows participants to prepare for the meeting. They can gather necessary information, formulate thoughts and questions, and come ready to contribute effectively.

Same Expectations For Everyone: An agenda communicates to all attendees what will be discussed, what decisions need to be made, and what outcomes are expected from the meeting. This clarity helps align everyone's expectations and efforts toward the meeting's goals.

So, an agenda is not just a list of topics; it's a strategic tool that structures the meeting, maintains focus, ensures effective use of time, and facilitates the preparation and participation of all attendees.

Feel free to use the free meeting agenda template we created in this blog below!

(4) Always Start on Time

By always starting your meetings on time, you reinforce the importance of efficiency and respect for everyone’s schedule.

When participants know that the meeting will start on time regardless of their presence, it encourages them to be more responsible about their time management and punctuality. This practice also...

Helps avoid rushing: Waiting for latecomers can significantly delay the entire agenda. Starting on time helps ensure that the meeting can cover all planned topics without rushing or skipping important discussions.

Maximizes Available Time: Especially in cases where meeting rooms or virtual meeting platforms are booked with a time limit, starting on time ensures that you make the most of the available time slot.

How to Manage Late Arrivals: To accommodate latecomers without disrupting the meeting:

  • Brief Them Later: Arrange for someone to update latecomers on what they missed, either during a natural pause in the meeting or afterwards.
  • Recap Only if Necessary: If a late arrival is crucial to the meeting, a brief recap might be needed, but keep it concise to maintain the flow of the meeting.
  • Document the Meeting: Ensure that minutes are taken so that those who are late can catch up on what they missed without requiring a full recap during the meeting.

(5) Use Technology to Streamline Meetings

Here's how to use tech to your advantage:

Delegate Note-taking to AI

What if you could just completely focus on the discussion and outsource note-taking?

If that sounds tempting, you might want to try Wudpecker, whose AI-note-taking tool...

  • Automatically joins and records your meetings once you've signed up, so there's no repeated setup
  • Works for both online (Google Meet, Zoom or Teams) and in-person meetings
  • Summarizes the whole online meeting's discussions and action items for you
  • Takes max 10 minutes after the meeting to give you the summary (but usually just a couple)
  • Lets you share the notes to other people
  • Lets you change the structure of the notes
  • Answers questions you might have about the discussion you had in the meeting

Use Collaborative Tools

Effectively utilizing collaborative tools can streamline your meetings and help keep them within their scheduled time. Here’s how each type of tool contributes to this goal:

Visual Boards

  • Facilitates Clear Visualization: Visual boards help in mapping out talking points and processes, making complex concepts easier to understand and discuss.
  • Enhances Engagement: The interactive nature of these tools keeps participants engaged and encourages active contribution.
  • Examples: Miro for mind mapping and collaborative drawing, Figma for interface design and prototyping, Asana for task management and progress tracking.

Polls and Surveys

  • Quick Decision Making: Instant polls and surveys enable rapid gathering of opinions, facilitating quicker decision-making processes.
  • Inclusivity in Input: These tools ensure that every participant has a voice, especially in larger meetings or in situations where someone has an unpopular opinion. Rarely anyone wants to be the only person who goes against the grain publicly.
  • Examples: Slido for live polls and Q&A sessions, Mentimeter for interactive presentations, SurveyMonkey for comprehensive surveys.

(6) Delegate or Postpone

Effectively managing the content of your meetings is crucial for keeping them within the allocated time. Here's how delegation or postponement can help meetings run more smoothly:

Identify Delegable Topics: Before the meeting, review the agenda to identify items that could be handled outside the meeting. Delegating these tasks to individuals or smaller teams can save valuable meeting time.

Prioritize Agenda Items: Focus on topics that require collective discussion or decision-making. If certain points can wait or are less urgent, consider postponing them to a future meeting or a different forum.

Clear Communication: When delegating or postponing, communicate clearly why this decision has been made. This ensures that everyone understands the priorities and that the deferred topics are not overlooked.

Effective Use of Time: By concentrating on the most critical topics during the meeting, you ensure that the time spent together is productive and focused. Delegating and postponing help in maintaining this focus.

Follow-up Mechanism: Establish a system to track the progress of delegated tasks or postponed topics. This ensures accountability and that these items are addressed in a timely manner.

(7) Use Action Items to Continue the Discussion

Effective meetings should lead to clear actions and handle complex topics efficiently. Clarifying action items at the meeting's end and offering email follow-ups for in-depth discussions can achieve this balance:

Specify and Summarize Actions: Conclude meetings by clearly identifying specific actions, who is responsible, and the deadlines for each task. Briefly summarize key decisions to ensure a unified understanding.

Assign Responsibilities and Set Deadlines: Allocate tasks to individuals and establish clear deadlines. This clarity promotes accountability and helps track progress.

Transition Complex Topics to Email: For questions requiring more detailed analysis or inputs from others, suggest addressing them through email follow-ups. This approach keeps the meeting focused and allows for more comprehensive responses.

Document and Share Action Items: Record the action items and key points discussed, sharing them with all participants. This documentation acts as a reference and ensures commitments are remembered and acted upon.

Benefits of Email Follow-Ups: Email discussions prevent the meeting from getting sidetracked by intricate details and provide a written record of the conversations. They allow participants time to research and formulate more considered responses, ensuring that complex issues are addressed thoroughly and thoughtfully.

With Wudpecker, you can automatically create and email action items to meeting participants after each meeting.

Conclusion

Everyone knows the pain of having to sit through gatherings that are not relevant or moving forward too slowly. Such meetings can impact work negatively in many ways.

We've shown 7 strategies to completely transform your next meeting.

We hope you'll start adapting them and encouraging others to do the same, whether we're talking about a typical office gathering, an offsite meeting, or a Zoom call.

Let's change the meeting culture one meeting at a time.

FAQs

What does "the meeting is running over" mean?

"The meeting is running over" implies that a meeting is lasting longer than its scheduled time. This often occurs when discussions extend beyond the allotted time, possibly due to unexpected issues, prolonged debates, or inefficient agenda management.

It signals that the meeting isn't adhering to its intended timeframe, causing potential disruptions in participants' schedules.

Why do meetings always run over?

Meetings commonly overrun due to several reasons: insufficient planning, overly ambitious agendas, poor time management, dominant participants steering the conversation, and unexpected complex issues or last-minute additions.

These factors collectively contribute to meetings extending past their scheduled end times, impacting overall productivity.

How do you end a meeting going over time?

To conclude a meeting that's overrunning, first give a time warning to signal the approaching end. Prioritize the remaining agenda items, summarizing key points and assigning action items for follow-up. If necessary, propose a subsequent meeting for unresolved issues.

Firmly enforce the scheduled end time to respect everyone's commitments. This approach helps maintain focus and respect for participants' time.

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