Career & Education

Managing lengthy meetings

Career Advisor

Carolyn Marie Smith

Sunday, February 04, 2018

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Dear Career Advisor,

As the recently promoted head of my department, I now have to chair the monthly meetings. To my chagrin, despite my good intentions, the last two meetings I led were even longer than those conducted by the former team leader. The meetings stimulate many “ideas”, but I feel very little is really accomplished, and the duration is bothersome. Honestly, it's the one part of the job I feel I am not getting quite right and I know it will affect my performance rating. What do you suggest I do?


W Danvers


Dear Mr Danvers,

Congratulations on your promotion.

Indeed, two factors for assessing the competencies of a manager's administrative ability are control and productivity of meetings. Research has shown that executives and managers often spend more than half their work week in meetings, and they report that less than 60 per cent of these meetings are productive. It is therefore evident that you have to carefully strategise to get the most out of them.

The following are a few strategies you should consider adopting when leading meetings.


Set clear objectives

The purpose of the meeting needs to be specific and clearly defined. It is not productive to call a meeting to provide updates. Send an e-mail instead.


Establish the agenda

Prepare an agenda and circulate it to everyone before the meeting.


Give advance notice

Send early notification of the meeting date, time and duration to participants to avoid disrupting their schedules unnecessarily.


Stick to the agenda

Keep the meeting in focus by allotting specific duration for discourse on each agenda item and maintain it.



Begin and end the meeting on time. By doing so you show respect for other people's time.


Establish ground rules

For example, it may be necessary to establish how decisions will be arrived at — whether by consensus, majority vote, or referral to executive.


Monitor discourse

Dissuade monopoly of discussion by persons with the tendency to do so. Thank the monopolisers for their contributions and ask them to allow others to speak. It is often useful to remind participants to be respectful and not interrupt other speakers.


Establish technology protocols

Participants should be encouraged to give full attention while in the meeting and only use devices to inform the item being discussed and not for checking e-mails, surfing the web or playing games.


Action items

For each agenda item, determine the agreement for further action, who is responsible, and the timeline for completion.



To prevent misunderstandings or differences in interpretations of expected outcomes, send a follow-up communiqué within 24 hours highlighting what was agreed upon, accomplished, and the next steps.

I am confident that these suggestions will lead to your having engaging and productive meetings. Be patient with yourself; do not try to implement the strategies all at once. It will require consistency and determination.


Sincerely, Career Advisor.


Carolyn Marie Smith is associate vice-president of student services at Northern Caribbean University in Mandeville, Manchester. Submit your questions to her at

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