Where has the time gone, and how should we spend the time we have left? Considering many of us are now taking on more, or experiencing budget cuts, events and meetings for corporate groups and boards of directors are now often being compressed into less time. Fortunately, this is actually in line with the trends in the digital age of 140-character attention spans and the growing popularity of remote offices.
There are several ways to have fruitful meetings that are quick and to the point, and without compromising the quality of your message.
1. Shorter sessions, more sessions, and piggybacking
Attendees want to get the biggest bang for their buck. At a conference, they don’t want to feel like they’re missing out on content or speakers, so by shortening sessions you’re actually giving them the opportunity to see more in a day. A useful format that has garnered great feedback from attendees is any kind of quick learning bursts that range from 10-30 minutes, similar to TED talks. The business and industries of many people today are very cross-sectional, so the more sessions you can offer to this type of delegate, the better.
When it comes to meeting planning, if you’re asking your board or client to travel for a meeting, try piggybacking it on a conference or professional development event, whether it be through your organization or another industry organization. It will be helpful to them when it comes time to getting funding from their employer to attend the meeting.
2. Embrace the digital world
From conference apps, to online feeds, to webinars, the possibilities for incorporating the digital world into meetings and events continues to grow. No time to get through all of your content? Share it online. Want attendees to have some knowledge before attending to make for a more interesting conversation? Push it out on an event app in advance.
In the same vein, while longer in-person meetings are great, in today’s world where many volunteers split their time and budgets multiple ways, it is becoming increasingly challenging to get employer’s support to attend meetings, especially if commuting from a great distance. With telecommunication, you can have the same effect as an in-person meeting, and sometimes even foster more interaction among attendees if you’re also using an online collaboration platform. As a general rule, I recommend that conference calls last no longer than an hour and a half, or else you’re risking losing the attention of the attendees.
3. Know your outcome and be direct
No one likes a pointless meeting. You know the ones I’m talking about – having a mandatory team regroup, that is often missing a few key players and really only serves to remind a select few about what you have been working on. Avoid doing this – always have your outcome in mind before calling a meeting, whether through a succinct agenda at the board table or through learning outcomes for a presentation at an industry event. Without this, you will not have a clear message, and are wasting yours and everyone else’s time.
4. Stay on track
Allocate specific times to each agenda item or point you want to cover. If a discussion surpasses the allocated time, use a parking lot to temporarily “park” the idea. It is important to have a very intentional agenda or presentation items and a realistic number of items to cover. Otherwise you’ll risk consistently deferring the same items to the next meeting, potentially leading to disengagement.
For events, we know that it is very important to respect the allocated time for each meeting or session. Recommend that speakers have markers throughout the presentation and that they keep in mind which sections they’ll remove if short on time, which should not always be the concluding slides.
5. Put some onus on attendees
Give them the tools they need to plan their attendance in advance so that they know where to be and when, how much time to allocate to networking, etc. Many events now use conference apps that allow them to select their sessions and receive notifications and reminders. Share the delegate list so they know who they want to meet in order for them to keep their contact brief, but successful.
In a board meeting setting, embrace a “consent agenda” and package routine reports, meeting minutes, and other non-controversial items not requiring discussion or independent action as one agenda item. By doing so, you’re asking attendees to have read all reports and documentation in advance so that only items requiring board decisions are discussed.