So you've set the meeting up for success by giving proper notice of the subject, gotten only the appropriate people involved, and warned them all to be there on time. So, just how much time should you waste in this meeting?
I hate meetings in general, and I firmly believe that most stuff we formalize in them can be handled as quick hallway discussions. Removing chairs from the conference room is one trick used to train folks to get to the meat of the matter. If you don’t want to go that far, seriously consider that, except for the largest of issues, one hour should be plenty to achieve your meeting goals. If not, then consider splitting the overall meeting up into a few 1-hour mini-meetings. Folks have an impossible time concentrating on a single issue for more than an hour anyway. The ever-present tug of “all that other stuff I gotta do” will make it impossible to maintain focus after that. Be honest, what's your first thought when someone schedules an all-freaking-day meeting for you? Yeah, exactly.
But, you should have every expectation that a well-focused meeting should command each person’s full attention for up to about an hour. That means no email and no potty breaks. Also, even if you think you can get it all done in about 30 minutes, schedule the full hour. If you have underestimated the task at hand, you’ll still stand a good chance at getting things wrapped up without having to reschedule. If you finish early, everyone will love having that time back in their day, and it will be their time because your meeting previously blocked it out. You will be a fan favorite.
Also, when I say “schedule the meeting for an hour,” what I really mean is “schedule the meeting for 55 minutes.” Getting everyone to their next meeting on time is respectful and a good step to helping that next meeting achieve its goals. Help them out. BONUS HINT! If you use GoogleApps for calendaring, look in the settings, in the "default meeting length" area, you'll see the option to set "Speedy meetings" and cut the meetings off a little early. Use it! And finish when you're supposed to finish.
Also, if folks come walking into your meeting a few minutes late because the previous meeting just ended, get the word out to other folks you work with that they should be cutting things off earlier.
And try to convince everyone to set their calendar alerts to FIVE minutes before a meeting begins. Most of the email programs default to 15. When that alert goes off, you’re still in the middle of the meeting, and everyone just ignores it. Or you might be at your desk, in which case you’re really going to ignore it. But, if you have it set for five minutes, there’s no doubt about it – it’s time to go.
Is A Recurrent Meeting Needed?
Also, take a look at any meetings that you have at regularly scheduled intervals. Whatever they might be, I have found that many meetings that are regularly scheduled – shouldn’t be. Oftentimes folks show up for these only to find out that there is a minimal or nonexistent agenda. Or, folks stop showing up at all. Or, whoever arranged the meeting simply keeps cancelling it. In any case, see if maybe a longer interval between meetings is appropriate, or whether calling it “on demand” might be a more valuable use of everyone’s time.
PS: I couldn't believe that Iron Chef Bobby Flay was cooking steaks on TV and never called one of them a "Bobby Filet". Is it me?