I’ve had numerous clients over the years who have regularly scheduled meetings lasting 8 or more hours. Usually held with the senior leadership team, they go on and on – often wasting an entire day. One notorious non-profit’s monthly leadership and marketing meetings extend literally for 2 solid days at a time. I’d rather visit the dentist. So let me tell you why this is a bad idea:
First, human beings simply can’t focus their attention for so long. After about 40 minutes at a stretch, even the best people start mentally wandering, opening email, staring out the window, and checking out. Just notice the faces around the table as you near the first hour mark – watch how they start disengaging. From that point on, anything you attempt at the meeting will only have limited results, and effectiveness starts to quickly erode.
And here’s the reason: Meetings aren’t for processing – they’re for decisions.
All day meetings happen because people don’t come prepared, and expect to do their processing (or thinking) at the meeting itself. All that does is waste everyone’s time. The reason you gather all these leaders together isn’t to watch everyone think – it’s to arrive at a decision.
Here’s what I recommend: When your time comes to speak, give your recommendation for the subject at hand, provide no more than a 1 minute explanation, and then hand everyone a “fact sheet” with the details. The fact sheet is the process. It’s how you came to your conclusion. You did your homework so you don’t have to bore everyone to death with the details.
For those in the room that need more detail, they’re welcome to read it at their leisure. For the rest, let’s agree or disagree with your recommendation and move on.
Don’t just try it – make it you working guide. You’ll see the length of your meetings drop dramatically, and the results of your meetings improve just as dramatically.