14 Effective Strategies to Shorten Meetings at Work

Try these 14 effective strategies for hosting shorter but more efficient meetings at work to save time and boost productivity.

By Hannah Ross  •   January 24, 2022  •   7 min read

Are meetings beginning to take over your calendar? Nothing is worse than being stuck in back-to-back meetings, especially if they aren’t being run effectively. In this article, we will dive into tips and tricks that will ensure you host short, productive meetings that keep everyone engaged and informed from start to finish. 

Why you should (and can!) shorten meetings

If you’ve been plagued with lengthy meeting after lengthy meeting, it’s time to make a change. Here are four reasons why you should start shortening your meetings: 

1.     Long meetings are often unnecessary

2.     Lengthy meetings waste company time (and money!) 

3.     Busy calendars prevent employees from doing deep work

4.     Longer-than-necessary meetings can be draining for employees

Long meetings aren’t productive

Make the best use out of everyone’s time by having a collaborative meeting agenda with talking points and action items clearly outlined.

14 strategies to shorten lengthy meetings

1Have a clear purpose for meeting 

Defining and clearly stating the purpose of your meeting is imperative, especially if you want to host an effective and productive meeting. If you haven’t defined the purpose of your meeting, simply postpone the meeting or take time to revisit the purpose before moving forward. Remember, if you haven’t clearly defined your meeting’s purpose, you run the risk of wasting everyone’s time. 

2Send the agenda in advance 

Are your teammates frequently showing up to meetings unprepared? If you’re eager to run short, productive meetings, circulating your meeting agenda before the meeting kicks off is a great way to ensure everyone shows up knowing exactly what to expect. If everyone in attendance is on the same page, you can be sure to run a short, effective meeting. 

3Include background materials before meeting 

Circulating background material before each meeting is a great way to make sure everyone’s informed on and well versed in the subject matter. If you’re looking to save time when it comes to diving deeper into certain subjects during your meetings, this is a great way to make sure everyone’s entering the meeting with the same level of base knowledge. 

Colin Bryar, the former Vice President of Amazon, firmly believes that narratives are key when it comes to decision making. Writing a well-thought-out, concise narrative that is circulated prior to the meeting is much more effective than presenting a PowerPoint that only leads to zoned-out meeting attendees.

4Limit the number of attendees 

One of your key responsibilities as the meeting host is to prepare the guest list. When deciding who to add to your next meeting, make sure to be mindful and only invite necessary teammates. A few key stakeholders or decision-makers will suffice. There’s no need to invite more people than necessary. If certain people can be informed after the fact, circulate the meeting notes and update them that way. Remember, every time you invite someone to a meeting, you’re taking time out of their day and eliminating the amount of time they have for deep work. 

5Assign meeting roles 

Meeting roles are essential. Not only does assigning meeting roles ensure everyone is engaged, but it also ensures all of your bases are covered. When assigning roles, you should take these key positions into consideration: meeting host,  notetaker, and timekeeper. 

Assigning roles is also a great way to ensure everyone participates equally. To give everyone equal opportunity, make sure to switch up the roles from time to time. Switching the roles every week is a great way to ensure you’re being an inclusive meeting host. 

6Have allotted time slots for each topic

Having a meeting agenda is one thing, but leveraging a template with time slots that are allotted to each topic is next level. Planning your meeting agenda meticulously is a great way to ensure you’ve allocated the right amount of time to each talking point. Knowing how long you have to discuss each talking point will ensure your meeting doesn’t take longer than scheduled. For an added level of security, consider timing each section in real-time. 

7Use the parking lot method 

The parking lot method is one of the best tools that you have available to you as a meeting host. The parking lot method essentially means that you “park” a conversation and revisit it at a more appropriate time. If a certain line of conversation begins to wander away from the meeting agenda, simply evoke your right as the meeting host and ask attendees to park the conversation. 

8Change the order of topics

It can be easy to get into a rhythm by hosting your meetings in the same sequence time after time. If you’re looking for ways to cut time and host shorter meetings, you may want to consider changing the order of your talking points. Switching things up may be exactly what you need to save time. 

9Don’t be afraid to say no 

Saying no can be difficult, but it’s important to stand your ground when necessary. If you notice that your meeting is being derailed, or if someone brings up a talking point that should be saved for a parking lot, don’t be afraid to say so. As the host, you are responsible for ensuring the meeting runs smoothly, and this tip is great if you’re looking to improve your time management skills. 

10Start at an unusual time

It’s customary for the majority of meetings to begin on the hour or half past the hour. What isn’t as normal is starting meetings at an unusual time. Oftentimes we don’t realize how much time we’re wasting by starting and ending meetings within these half-hour increments. If you’re looking to host a super short meeting, try switching things up and kicking things off at an unusual time like 2:10pm, for example. 

11Ditch the 30 or 60 minute lengths 

We’re all guilty of being creatures of habit, but there’s no reason we can’t switch things up when it comes to determining the lengths of our meetings. Out of habit, we often opt for 30- or 60-minute time blocks, but there’s no reason we can’t begin to switch things up. Instead, try allocating 20 or even 50 minutes to your next meeting. Opting for a larger amount of time may lead to unnecessary conversations or meetings that last much longer than they should. 

Ditching the 30 or 60 minute meeting length is essential in making room for deep work to increase team productivity. Fellow’s Meeting Guidelines feature set helps eliminate back to back meetings by making them speedy. With the help of this feature, meeting organizers are automatically prompted to shorten the meetings they’re creating by 5 – 10 minutes, so attendees can get a break in between meetings. Less meeting fatigue, and more time for deep work!

12Instill some meeting ground rules 

Meeting ground rules are imperative, especially if you want to keep your meetings short, sweet, and impactful. Meeting ground rules ensure everyone knows what to expect from start to finish. If everyone knows what to expect and how to proceed, it’s safe to say that your meetings will be shorter and more productive. When determining which ground rules to implement, make sure you’re being respectful and inclusive. Start small and work your way up. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel. What’s most important is setting a list of rules or guidelines that are inclusive and obtainable. 

13Ask for feedback 

The easiest way to improve is to seek feedback. If you’ve been wondering how to shorten meetings, ask your teammates. Oftentimes there’s a stigma around asking for feedback, but feedback is one of the most important gifts that you can receive as a manager, and you should feel comfortable and confident enough to seek these insights from your teammates when necessary. 

If you’re eager to gain insights on ways in which you can improve the lengths of your meetings, consider scheduling one-on-one meetings with your teammates. These insights may help you make positive changes that lead to quicker, and more productive meetings; using a feedback tool makes sending and receiving feedback in real-time easier than ever. 

14Save Q&A’s for asynchronous communication

Q&A segments are great because they allow you and your teammates to have open and honest conversations, but if they aren’t done asynchronously, they may become a time suck. A quick and easy way to combat this issue is to save Q&A’s for asynchronous communication

Interested in hosting a Q&A? Set up a team Slack channel that is dedicated strictly to this purpose. Every Friday, set aside a time where teammates can ask their questions. You can choose to answer in real-time to make it an event or answer when your schedule allows. What’s most important is ensuring your teammates receive answers to their pressing questions. Answering these questions asynchronously is a great way to save time. 

Be productive and save time 

Short, quick, effective meetings are only a few tips and tricks away. It’s time to do some self-reflection and get your strategy in place. These tips and tricks will ensure your next meeting is short, effective, and scheduled accordingly. Get ready to bring your meetings from lengthy and lackluster to quick and productive. 

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