How to Estimate Agenda Times for a Meeting/Workshop in the USA
Time Management for the Eternally Optimistic and Always Late Facilitators/Leaders
I have worked in nonprofits, educational and other venues for which meetings (workshops, Board meetings, conference convocations, etc.) are a necessity. I cannot count how many times I have sat through a session run by someone else who could not figure out how to manage the time for the stated agenda, nor how to create an agenda that could actually be completed in the time allotted.
Frustrating, insulting and disrespectful to those in attendance, and otherwise a TIME WASTER.
image and meme info from http://www.inspiredemployee.com “Running Effective Meetings”
My friend and colleague, Mario Cossa, and I have coined the term “pre-crastinators” endearingly to refer to ourselves. Pre-crastinators are prepared early so that we are able to and do send out agendae AS PROMISED, distribute minutes or preparatory materials in advance and do not make other wait.
Leaders are training people with every move
—I never start late, even if I and only a few others are on time, because if I did, then I would be dishonoring those who made the effort to be punctual and training participants/members to believe that being on time won’t matter in the future.
—Similarly, I always end on time, unless I have asked the group for permission to extend our time and been granted that.
When an item requires more time
I must notice this so that we can take a break from the agenda to discuss this dilemma PRIOR to the ending time and list what our options are. The members can then let me know if adding a specific number of minutes to complete a specific item/task is acceptable or if we have to postpone that item’s completion.
If we run late, then, it is as a group and not based solely on my decision or due to poor planning. These approaches to time management show respect and organizational control. Therefore, I make sure that I/we can conclude the event and its agenda by the end of our agreed-upon time limit, with designated items labeled in advance that must be discussed at more than one meeting.
image from http://http://www.slideshare.net/gretchenrubin/gr-14-tips-for-running-a-good-meeting-2/2-1_Very_obvious_Start_on “Start and End on Time”
Therefore, I offer my pearls of wisdom from decades of managing time extraordinarily well. Take notes.
Let’s use an hour-long session as the prototype for this list of tips.
Opening, Closing and Pacing a Session
- Allow three minutes extra for “entry” and “ending” than whatever you have planned. TOTAL TIME: 6 minutes
- Allow one minute between agenda items/activities for transitions. TOTAL TIME: 6 minutes
- Include announcements, brief introductions, setting meeting format/ground rules (if needed), selecting timekeepers/co-facilitators (if desired), site’s logistics (for longer sessions, the locations of bathrooms, break times, fire exits) thank-you’s and other necessities up front or at the end: allow about two minutes for each. TOTAL TIME: 4 minutes
image from http://vismap.blogspot.com “Opening the Meeting”
- Allow a “next steps” agenda item preceding the conclusion of any session for at least five minutes to have participants be assigned/volunteer for tasks, set time expectations/deadlines, and confirm/set the next meeting date/place/leadership. TOTAL TIME: 5 minutes
- Remind people of the last session(s) or read and accept the minutes to get everyone back into this group’s objectives from wherever they each just came to your session from, especially if more than two weeks have elapsed between sessions. Allow 5 minutes for this re-cap. TOTAL TIME: 5 minutes
- Make sure everyone has a chance to speak during an hour-long session by inviting individuals by name to contribute at least once. During the wrap-up, ask if anyone has anything else to say before ending. Allow 4 minutes for this. TOTAL TIME: 4 minutes
You actually have only 30 minutes for your “hour-long” session’s actual agenda. Truly. And, that is only if you start and end on time. Schedule more sessions if you need more time.
What about introductions?
—NEVER use your precious session’s time for longer introductions of members’ UNLESS that is the sole purpose of your session.
—When your group has more than five people and you have only scheduled one meeting, you can’t use more than about 15-30 seconds to “meet” each other by way of self-introduction for each person.
—Be clear about that up front and then model the proper format for the group by going first.
Generating and Upholding Realistic Time Expectations
- For a 30-minute agenda, no item should be allocated more than 10 minutes unless it is the main focus of the entire session.
- Sub-divide any complex item’s components into 3- to 10-minute slots to keep people’s attention and keep you (the leader/time-keeper) on task.
- For a 30-minute agenda, a maximum of 3 items should actually require group discussion and/or voting/ consensus/ confirmation of learning. If you have more, you need a longer meeting time.
- Allow up to twelve minutes, total time, for each major agenda item, start to finish, including transitions between sub-items. If any requires more than 12 total minutes, postpone/table some of the decision/learning to the next meeting.
- Put the designated/expected times for each item right next to it.
image from http://northboundsales.com “Sample Agenda with Times Listed”
I do not let others hijack my meetings or workshops with unending stories, unfiltered confessions, boring and repetitious contributions (like your own voice much?) or other time-wasters.
I make sure everyone has a chance to speak who wants to contribute.
When I run the meeting or workshop, everyone can relax, listen and participate well.
I facilitate with humor, grace and firmness.
People LOVE my workshops and meetings because I use their time respectfully.
- If you have groups whose members consistently keep on “running off” verbally, rotate the timekeeping and agenda-maintenance roles (per meeting or per item) and don’t assume these all yourself.
- Bring a visible/audible timer and use it for each item. Set the timer to go off or have the timekeeper announce when there is one minute left for that item and again when that item’s time has elapsed.
- When more time is actually needed for an item than was anticipated (new issues or problems arose, a useful activity or discussion is occurring), discuss extending the time and get consensus about that with the group AND announce that you/we are deciding that some other item(s) will now have to wait until the next meeting OR we can agree to postpone finishing this one until our next meeting.
- Rephrase, reframe or thank each contributor with as few words as possible.
- When someone starts to be repetitive or repeat someone else’s contribution, interrupt them with something like this: “I appreciate your enthusiasm/interest/knowledge, but we don’t have time to go over the same ground here. Do you have anything new to add?”
- Remind people to add to/refer to rather than repeat others’ contributions by saying: “I agree/disagree with [THAT PERSON], AND/BUT…” and thank them for their conciseness in advance.
- Use your hands and face as traffic/time controllers: hold up one finger, a hand in a stop-gesture, use a calming/quelling gesture, a nod, a frown, a smile, a slight shake of your head with clear intention. Point to the agenda (which should be posted where all can see it as well as handed out on paper) and your phone or watch or the wall clock. Count down with your fingers and say: “Two more minutes on this item.”
image from http://vismap.blogspot.com “Ending the Meeting”
- Be firm and grateful, both.
- Briefly summarize what was accomplished, next session’s tasks, and meeting date/time/place before leaving.
image from http://www.opensesame.com/ “Signs of a Successful Session”