How often do meetings go too long? Enough that 73% of professionals have time to do other work in meetings, according to Atlassian, a productivity software company.
These are some classic signs that your call is going too long, and how to end it.
When You’ve Already Covered Everything
Ideally, a conference call will have an agenda. But sometimes, you wind up improvising new topics.
Jam band musicians—whose job is to improvise—like to talk about “feel.” If a particular rendition of a song has a good feel in concert, a jam band will extend the take. This Phish tune went on for 28 minutes. And their fans probably loved it.
Some people love long meetings. But most of us would rather keep things a little shorter. When your colleague starts acting like Phil Lesh and starts riffing on something that you didn’t plan to discuss, it’s time to wrap up.
When You Get Off-Track
You’re a logistics expert on a call about supply chain efficiency. Somehow, you wound up talking about staff retention in an office two time zones away. Nobody knows why or how you got there, but there you are. Ideally, the person leading the call will get you back on track.
But then again, sometimes they won’t.
When There Was No Agenda
The worst meeting is one that has no plan. Some conference calls have no agenda at all. They might be held every Thursday at ten simply because the participants have gotten used to holding a call at that time.
Or they might be organized to address a real problem, but whoever convened the meeting might not have outlined the points that they want to discuss.
Clearly, it pays to be well-prepared. Real leadership involves coming up with a plan—not figuring one out later.
When You Learn Too Much Information
Everyone appreciates getting to know their colleagues. Developing a relationship with our coworkers helps us work together as a team. However, team building can sometimes go on too long.
Calls sometimes devolve into discussions about weekend plans, local restaurants, or who knows what. And that’s okay. But if you have a deadline, you may want to find a graceful way to bow out.
How To End A Call That’s Gone On Too Long
Erica B. McCurdy, a life coach, gave us an example of how to end a call. In her formulation, there are a few elements that you can use to get out of your call. Compliment the work that’s been done, thank everyone for their attendance, explain why you have to leave, and offer one last chance to follow up on the main subject.
Here’s McCurdy’s example:
“Great call, everyone. Thank you for including me. I see that we are five minutes over our allotted time and we have covered our agenda topics. Before I jump off to get back to work, are there any final points or can we take the rest of this offline?”
How To Prevent Time-Wasting Calls
Time-wasting conference calls have two things in common with Smokey the Bear’s philosophy. You’re better off preventing such calls, rather than fighting them as they happen. And it might feel like only you can prevent them.
Lisa Frame-Jacobson, a management consultant at Feature Talent Builders, says you can take these proactive steps to stop wasting time in meetings.
Use An Agenda
Develop an agenda for the meeting. Make sure everyone has read it beforehand. It will keep you on track and give the leader a tool to keep everyone engaged.
Hard Time Limits
If a meeting ends at 3, it should end exactly at 3. A few minutes for pleasantries or final thoughts is fine. However, if the leader and the group have agreed on a stopping time, don’t be shy about saying you have to leave on time.
Empower The Leader
Someone should be in charge. A meeting without a moderator can quickly descend into a free-for-all. Conference calls can get there even faster, because the participants can’t see each other.
While conference calls are a useful productivity tool—we’re big fans, clearly—they can also eat up a lot of your day. Hopefully, these warning signs and tips will help you use your time well.