Ah, business meetings: The only phenomena in the known universe that make line-ups at the DMV look like models of efficiency in comparison. According to one estimate, the average professional loses 31 hours per month in unproductive meetings. To put things in perspective, the uncut Lord of the Rings trilogy is only 12 hours long. Think about that for a second: In the time it takes you and your colleagues to set up the projector and argue over who will record the minutes, Frodo can walk to Mount Doom and back two and a half times.

How do you remedy this? Like reaching absolute zero on the thermometer, there’s no known way to achieve a 100% efficient meeting. There are, however, certain steps you can take to make sure you don’t get horribly outpaced by Frodo productivity-wise.

1. Send Out the Agenda With the Same Frequency That Old Navy Sends Out Junk Mail

You can never send out the agenda too many times.

“Is there an agenda for today?” is the question that inevitably kicks off every business meeting. This is why it’s important to send out the agenda a week in advance, and then again four days later. Then, just for good measure, send the agenda out once again the day before the meeting.

This way, if anyone asks if there’s an agenda for the meeting, you can respond, “Yes, is your computer not capable of receiving e-mails?”

When compiling the agenda, always make sure that all deliverables are clearly marked and highlighted in bold. You may also want to consider using larger than normal font sizes. Don’t be afraid to go as high as 22pts.

2. Start On Time No Matter Who Shows Up Late (Unless It’s the President of the Organization or the President of the United States)

Waiting for latecomers is an exercise in futility. Always start on time.

The most common way business meetings chew up time is when someone shows up five minutes late and says, “Oh hey, sorry I’m late. What did I miss?” The next five minutes are then typically spent getting that person all caught up. Just when it looks like the meeting is finally set to move forward, another straggler inevitably wanders in, and the process repeats itself ad nauseam.

The best way to avoid this: Start on time no matter what and refuse to update any latecomers on what they missed. When someone shows up late for a movie, the projectionist doesn’t stop the show to give the late-comer a verbal synopsis. The same thing should apply to meetings.

3. Go Wireless

Although this photo was taken at dusk, the Ubiq Hive represents the dawn of the wireless era.

In today’s BYOD environment, non-wireless presentations can be tricky. In order to accommodate every laptop, the IT technician will have to bring a huge collection of wires and adapters to the conference room (HDMI, VGA, HDMI to VGA, DVI to HDMI, Thunderbolt to HDMI, Lightning to HDMI).

Figuring out which laptop requires which adapter can take longer than the meeting itself. Better to go wireless.

4. Don’t Be Afraid to Play Referee

Soccer games would be absolute chaos without referees, and the same thing applies to business meetings. The second someone goes off topic and mentions how crazy last night’s episode of Game of Thrones was, blow a whistle at them and give them a yellow card.

5. Keep Meetings Under 45 Minutes

A business meeting that goes over 45 minutes will test the limits of human endurance.

“The length of a film should be directly related to the endurance of the human bladder,” Alfred Hitchcock famously stated. For business meetings, a slightly different rule applies: Their length should be directly related to the endurance of the bladder of a hamster or hyperactive rodent. Studies show that people begin to check out mentally after 30 minutes. If you go past 45 minutes, whoever is presenting may as well be talking to an empty room.

By implementing some of these steps, we are confident that you can reduce wasted meeting room time from 31 hours per month to 10 hours per month, which should leave you with just enough free time to watch the Lord of the Rings trilogy twice or endure a line-up at the DMV.

Additional Reading

Top Tips On Organising Great Meetings at Work
Raise Productivity by Enabling Your Most Important Asset: Your Employees
This Conference Room Equipment Checklist Will Keep Your Meetings On Track
Increasing Efficiency In the Conference Room