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6 ways to make your board meetings shorter (but twice as productive)

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One of the most common complaints when it comes to meetings is how long they are. While it’s true that some board meetings do need to be long in order make big decisions or discuss complex topics that need lots of input; unnecessarily long meetings are inexcusable.

We’ve all been there, sat looking at the clock while enthusiastic attendees enjoy the sound of their own voice a little too much, or when someone is trying to bludgeon you into their way of thinking in an endless monotone. The most frustrating thing is these long meetings simply waste everyone’s time- reducing productivity across an entire business.

Thankfully there are ways to deal with long meetings, making them as short as possible while maximising time and efficiency. Here’s how.

Also read our blog on running better meetings

1. Invite the right people

Become a bit exclusive about who you actually invite to your board meeting. There’s often a tendency to invite too many people to a meeting, but rather than being useful, it just guarantees a long run time. Inviting too many people who aren’t strictly valuable can clog up the agenda and drag discussions out unnecessarily. So get strict about who you send your next board meeting invite to – board directors and people directly involved with (and responsible for) projects on the agenda only.

2. Watch your time keeping

It’s a board meeting basic, but accurate time keeping is absolutely crucial when it comes to keeping board meetings as short as possible. Strict timekeeping will ensure your meeting starts, ends and stays on time. Don’t use time up waiting for late arrivals- it’s annoying, quickly eats into your meeting time and signals to the rest of the attendees that their time isn’t as valuable. Agenda timings can also be very useful here- keeping speakers on track in their allocated slots, as well as ensuring discussions stay focused and productive.

Minute taking software can be particularly helpful too, tracking the number of minutes spent on each agenda item in real time – and alerting the timekeeper or Chair accordingly. Software will also use this information to automatically predict the end time of the meeting, which can really help sharpen people up.

3. Think about your meeting purpose with a clear agenda

Another board meeting basic, but publishing an agenda in advance of the meeting is a vital way to give your meeting a clear purpose, structure and flow. As well as including agenda timings alongside each item, assigning a clear ‘owner’ who’s responsible for sticking to the time allotted and preparing any board reports will help to limit any surprises.

Read the full Board Meeting Guide

4. Ask for information ahead of the meeting

One of the main ways board meetings often lose track, and drag on time-wise is that they become update, or data review sessions instead of opportunities to discuss strategy. One easy way to combat this by asking for any necessary reports and information (with explanation and context) ahead of the meeting from the agenda owners; giving attendees the chance to understand and review information prior to the meeting.

You’ll then be able to consolidate these reports into a pre-prepared board meeting pack, emailed out in good time ahead of the meeting.

5. Have a minute taker that gets to the point

Accurate minutes are another essential tool of better board meetings. But one way of shortening long-running meetings is to utilise the minute taker, and this is particularly useful if you’re presenting minutes live. Recording something like ‘Mr X expanded on the argument for Y in some detail’ is a clever, but super polite way of getting the message across. And this will hopefully impact other attendees to speed up their agenda slots too.

6. Some complex problems might be better outside the meeting


Sometimes, an agenda highlights an item that is going to be complicated and that will require lots of time to deal with effectively. If these issues need to be discussed with and solved with a single person in the company; it can make sense to take these off the agenda and move them into a one-on-one meeting instead another time. This instantly reduces the potential meeting length while still giving enough time to the issue- which is probably much more likely to benefit all involved.

7. Shorter meetings are more productive meetings

Meetings that are shorter are better for everyone. Whilst some board meetings do need to be long to cover a varied or complex agenda, most meetings that drag on simply shouldn’t need to. Long, ineffectual meetings are a waste of everyone’s time. There’s no magic bullet to shortening meetings, but having a focused agenda, preparing information ahead of time and utilising accurate time keeping will all work to reduce meeting time, while maximising productivity.

And who doesn’t want that?

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Our Good Board Meeting Guide is full of tips and information on how you can make your next board meeting run better. Download it here.

 

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