One of the main consultation services that I offer is management consultations. The general goal – streamline (or sometimes start) business so that non-billable hours are spent productively and minimized. One of my first questions is, “How many meetings do you have with your employees, and how long are they?” 

Since almost all of my clients are 100% remote-based, this question lets me know how well the business can communicate without seeing each other. In addition, it lets me know how much time they have dedicated to sitting down and talking each day/week/month.

How Many Meetings?

Before I can even start with how long meetings should be and how to make them shorter, we have to talk about how many meetings a team should have. To get to the point, a quote: 

“If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be ‘meetings.”

Dave Barry

In other words, meetings often hurt more than they help. That’s why Helianthus Advising’s team only meets once a month for one hour. With very rare exception, the rest of our communication happens over Twist – a platform similar to Slack or Microsoft Teams.

The meeting enables us to go over major business updates, meet new team members, and talk about clients. Twist enables us to coordinate project management, talk about assigned tasks, and troubleshoot issues that arise throughout the month.

Now, not many teams will be able to work their way down to one meeting per month. However, I can generally state that one meeting per week is the maximum needed to effectively coordinate a team or business of almost any size.

Bonus: How Many People Per Meeting?

Another top question that comes before meeting length is how large should the meeting be? This depends on the goal of the meeting. Over on the Harvard Business Review, you can find a general rule many (including myself) follow. Called the “8-18-1800 Rule” it can be summarized as follows: 

  • Decision-Based Meetings: If you need to make a decision during the meeting, then no more than 8 people should be invited.
  • Brainstorming Meetings: If your main goal is to brainstorm ideas, then 18 people can come without a drop in productivity. 
    • In addition, meetings that will have everyone speak (even if “general update” in style) should only have 18 people tops
  • General Update Meetings: If you want to update your team on how the project, goal, or business is progressing, then invite everyone!

How Long Should Meetings Be?

How long a meeting will last is determined by the goal and purpose of the meeting. However, setting a general meeting limit of one hour will be more than sufficient for most events. Using the types of meetings from above, here’s a guideline on how to set a goal time: 

  • Decision-Based Meetings: These meetings could last from 15 minutes to 2 or more hours. The length of time will depend on the importance of the discussion. If you’re talking about a decision that will affect little to nothing, then 15 minutes will probably be enough. If you’re talking about a decision that will affect the whole business and its income, then much longer will be needed.
  • Brainstorming Meetings: Setting a brainstorming session to last no longer than thirty minutes. However, the key here is to ensure that your entire brainstorming team comes ready with ideas. If not, then perhaps an hour will do – 30 minutes for the actual brainstorming and 30 minutes for talking about the ideas.
  • General Update Meetings: If you’re talking to the whole company about the business’s progress, then taking 45-minutes should be more than enough time. Remember, only key people (Remember: 8 people) will be talking here – so have an agenda ready. 
    • For general update meetings that will have everyone (remember: 18 people) speak – things like project updates – stick to no more than one hour and make sure people come ready to talk with points and a meeting outline. 

How to Make Meetings Shorter:

Wrapping up this topic, there are a few very simple ways to make meetings shorter. In general, these work for all meeting types and with any meeting goal. However, the key to everything is preparation. If you do not prepare, then the meeting will take longer than it should – and the effectiveness will be reduced.

  1. Prepare a Schedule or Agenda: Every meeting that you ever host should come with an agenda. This should have each major meeting point as well as a time frame for questions at the end or in between each major section. Ensure that your schedule has estimated time allotments, who will lead that topic, and what questions you expect to have to answer.
  2. Send Reminders to Meeting Attendees: When a meeting is scheduled, make sure that you let the attendees know at least three times leading up to the event. Send one email when the meeting is first scheduled, one when you are two or three days away, and one an hour before the meeting. This will assist in ensuring that everyone shows up on time – a major time-wasting factor many don’t think about. 
  3. Record the Meeting: While note takers are loved – and can still be used – technology has given us better options. If your meeting takes place over Teams, Slack, Skype, Zoom, or Twist, then use Loom to record your meeting and screen. This not only records what people say but also any presentations that are shared. If your meeting is in person, then a voice recorder will enable you to accomplish much the same thing – with no breaks for note-taking. Send the meeting to everyone so that they can review it and take notes in their own time.

If you’re looking for more ways to streamline your business operations, then talk to Helianthus Advising today! We offer management consulting that focuses on ensuring that your business isn’t wasting time on work that doesn’t lead directly to money. We can also help your new business start out on the right track with business planning and launching!