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Designing Transformative Meetings: Timekeeping

Transformative meetings inspire ideas, action, and accountability. Sounds like a meeting you want to attend, right? Although the idea of designing transformative meetings sounds out of reach, I assure you anyone can do it by including five simple structures – agendas, roles, objectives, agreements, and timekeeping. Collectively, these pieces lead to meeting success every time. It might not seem like timekeeping is such a big deal, but it is actually key in creating the right atmosphere for transformative meetings.

More than anything, I have seen this one little tweak do a few very impactful things:

  • Timekeeping gives a team member that might be less engaged a job, boosting not only that individual's energy, morale, and productivity, but the that of the entire team.

  • Timekeeping also forces you to plan properly. You must think about how long you have during the meeting to reach your outcome – making a decision, brainstorming an idea, voting on a budget, etc. When you map this out in advance, you can realize you need more time, you need to trim down the agenda, or figure out what work needs to happen ahead of the meeting.

  • Timekeeping also shapes participants’ expectations. Everyone knows the conversation has an endpoint, which keeps them engaged as participants. On the other hand, an unending trip down the rabbit hole creates boredom, and ultimately anger and frustration. Keeping to time and setting limits upfront can prevent these negative feelings from affecting your meeting.

When you are planning out how long your meeting should be and how best to use your time, ask yourself these questions:

  • What is the purpose of the time? Are you brainstorming, choosing among ideas, sharing, something else?

  • How many people will be at the meeting? What are their roles in your organization? In your team?

It's important to note that some things – like brainstorming – take more time than others, so allot for your needs. Also, if you have a lot of people and you want everyone to participate, the meeting will take more time. Think about this, if you have 10 people around the table and each person talks for one minute, it takes up a lot of time and all you've accomplished is sharing out or capturing big questions or problems. You have not done any problem solving. While 45 minutes may feel like a long time to carve out for a conversation, it may be necessary based on the stage of work, which is why mapping things out well and giving everyone an overview of the timeframes can lead to success.


The timekeeper is responsible for following the guidelines you outline and help keep everyone on track. If you've allocated 10-20 minutes for a certain stage of the meeting, always give a 2-minute warning. If you have a longer session, like an hour, give a 10-minute warning followed by the 2-minute one. I recommend setting a timer and relying on the timekeeper for accountability. You can always reset the timer for 2 more minutes and then, either cut off the discussion or the group can reallocate more time based on your team's norms.

I'd love to learn more about your meeting challenges and how you can create transformative meetings. Feel free to schedule a time to chat with me one-on-one.

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