How to Hold a One-Hour Meeting in 45 Minutes

Last Updated May 14, 2010 11:19 AM EDT

Meetings: nobody likes them, everybody has to suffer through them. But must there be actual suffering? Not if you cap each meeting at 45 minutes.

That's the idea behind the 45-Minute Meeting Movement. Created by the folks at Web-based scheduling service TimeBridge, the 45MMM suggests that the typical one-hour meeting can easily be shaved to 45 minutes if you follow these five rules:

  1. Plan ahead: Develop a clear purpose and agenda with estimated minutes for each item. Deliver an agenda far ahead of the meeting so participants can prepare and participate. Let others contribute to the agenda.
  2. Cull the attendee list: If attendees do not have actions or direct oversight they don't need to attend the meeting. The bigger the meeting the more likely the time-suck. Send meeting notes to those who need to know about the meeting but don't need to be there.
  3. Stay tuned in: Phones off, laptops closed (except for the note-taker).
  4. Manage the clock: Call out, reign-in or punish the meeting jokesters, complainers and timewasters. Make sure you're not allowing the first agenda item to consume the entire meeting.
  5. Give ownership: Assign owners to all bullets or action items. Make sure to summarize the actions at the end of the meeting.
Much as I like the idea of making meetings 25 percent shorter, I'm not sure the advice here is specific enough to make that happen. I mean, these are good rules for planning and holding any meeting, regardless of the timetable.

I think if you want to limit a meeting to 45 minutes, you should schedule it to start at 15 minutes past the hour. (Everyone always sticks to that mental "hard stop" at the top of the hour.)

Other options to consider: holding "topless" meetings (meaning no laptops allowed), banning PowerPoint, and my all-time favorite, the stand-up meeting.

How do you keep meetings short and sweet? Do you think it's a mistake to try to shoehorn them into an artificial time limit, or does the idea of the 45-Minute Meeting Movement really speak to you? Let's all "meet" (heh, heh) in the comments to discuss.

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    Rick Broida, a technology writer for more than 20 years, is the author of more than a dozen books. In addition to writing CNET's The Cheapskate blog, he contributes to CNET's iPhone Atlas.