Allotting time for topics

The meeting agenda should allot specific amounts of time for each item. If no times are specified, then everything on the agenda appears to be of equal importance. An unfortunate consequence is that too much time will be spent on the least important items.

How to allot time

Allot time for meeting topics based on their significance. Agenda items are like work in general -- they will expand to fill whatever time is available.

To allot time most productively consider some of these strategies:

  • Identify the number of people likely to attend. Then estimate the total amount of time required if everyone made one 30-second comment. This is the minimal amount of time you'll need.
  • For each agenda item identify activities that will be required (presentations, review of documents, voting, prioritizing, etc.) and factor these into the total time needed for each item.
  • Consider the likely level of agreement for each agenda item. Where there is wide disagreement over certain topics, allow more time for these times.

Tip: Going around the table and inviting everyone to make an announcement is generally not a wise use of collective time. Participants may feel pressure to say something regardless of how important the item may be. Similarly, having no time allotted to individual agenda items may mean that too much time is spent on the least significant items and not enough time on the most important items.

See a sample agenda (Word Doc). Note how it allocates the most time for discussion and voting on the Merit Process. It anticipates this topic will generate the most discussion. Also note that Announcements are last, ensuring they don't take up undue time.