We all have experienced a bad meeting. You arrive on time, but it starts late. Nothing is really decided. No one seems to be in charge. There are no check in questions for meetings. And, as the meeting wraps up, it just feels like a waste of time.
There is a better way to do meetings. The critical point is to find the balance between meeting length vs effectiveness. And have a clear purpose for the meeting.
So how long should a meeting last? In this article, you will find the answer to that question. You will learn about different types of meetings and how to apply the rules to effective meeting duration.
What is the best meeting duration?
To decide how long your meeting should last, you have to reflect first about how urgent it is and how many people will participate.
Unless you have a very clear goal in mind, there is a danger that a meeting will be a waste of time, advises this Harvard Business Review article. So if you are in charge of organizing a meeting, ask yourself this question: “what is this meeting intended to achieve?”
Once you know that, you will be able to establish a meeting duration.
In general terms, no meeting should be longer than half an hour. There are many experts that support that idea. One of them is Donna McGeorge, the author of The 25 Minute Meeting: Half the Time, Double the Impact. She says that, if done well, meetings are “short, sharp and productive”.
This theory is inspired by Francesco Cirillo’s Pomodoro method, which states that 25 minutes is the optimal amount of time for people to focus on a certain topic.
But there are exceptions. The meeting length really depends on the nature of each of your conversations. Let’s have a look at the most typically occurring meetings and their recommended duration.
Types of meetings and their recommended duration
Sometimes, setting up a long meeting is not necessary. You could just have a coffee chat or a very short meeting to clarify some points or share a quick update.
In other cases, meetings don’t need to happen at all, especially in the case of asynchronous work, where other kinds of communications are prioritized.
But in some cases meetings are effective tools to share information. You can use them to improve engagement and build team culture. They can also be critical if you are looking into improving work performance.
Keep reading to learn about the 9 main kinds of meetings and how long they should last.
0 minutes. Information sharing is usually a one-way dialogue where one person informs a group of attendees or employees about a specific issue. It is not a meeting by itself, but an effective way to share information.
You should do information sharing around 24-48 hours in advance, so people can take the necessary time to process information and prepare feedback and questions. It’s important to keep it short, clear and concise.
This type of communication is well recommended for company updates, lectures, workshops, conferences and panel debates.
The team can then schedule a brainstorming or a short meeting to discuss the contents of the information that has been shared.
Suggestion: As an alternative, you can record videos with apps like Loom to walk through a presentation. After that, only schedule a short meeting to discuss questions, brainstorm, or go deeper into the topic if it can’t be solved through messages.
Between 20 and 40 minutes. 1:1’s are meetings between two people in the same department or across departments to get aligned.
A 1:1 meeting is a free form meeting. It is used to keep two people in the loop about a certain situation, give feedback and resolve work related issues. But it goes beyond status updates because it lays the foundation for a productive and trusting relationship.
In this conversation there is usually a mix of work and culture. If it is arranged between you and your manager, it becomes a good opportunity to talk about how you handle task management, your general satisfaction level and personal experience within the company.
Regarding the meeting duration, schedule a 1:1 for 30 minutes, and then have 10 minutes extra open in case it goes a little bit over.
Suggestion: in a remote environment, try to get as close to a face-to-face conversation as possible. Make sure that your equipment allows high quality video and audio for a better experience.
30 minutes. Learning how to meet with clients is one of the most important tasks you can complete.
How long should the meeting take? Ideally, a client meeting should take half an hour. But you have to make sure to send as much information in advance as possible, so your clients are up to date and can prepare questions, feedback or any information they might need beforehand.
According to Fellow, there are four different types of client meetings:
- Introductory: you can use this preliminary first chat to establish a good relationship with a client.
- Consultation: gain a clear understanding of the client’s needs… and position yourself as a solution!
- Proposal: present the client your findings and research. Seal the deal.
- Check-in: make sure everything is on track and there are no unanswered questions.
Suggestion: in a client meeting, preparation is key. Come well prepared to make it easier and don’t go overtime.
All hands or town hall
Between 20 and 40 minutes. Town hall or all hands meetings are not very frequent, but they are important for employee engagement, especially if you are looking into improving productivity in an organization.
In this group conversation, all employees, managers and stakeholders meet to discuss company-wide matters and share general updates. These updates are sometimes shared in a news brief beforehand, and then discussed with the rest of the team.
These meetings tend to happen on a monthly, quarter, semi-annual or annual basis. They allow alignment on achieving company goals and objectives.
All hands meetings are helpful to celebrate milestones and foster your company’s vision and values. They are also a good opportunity for people to have a direct approach with the CEO and with colleagues from different departments they don’t usually meet.
Suggestion: Make sure to make these meetings interactive to nurture collaboration between teams across departments. Give everyone a chance to ask questions and interact.
Around 30 minutes. The meeting duration of a brainstorming can be flexible, but it’s a good idea to try to stay around 30 minutes. However, having shorter intervals will allow your team to be more straightforward. So it all depends on the kinds of ideas you are looking for and how specific you want to be with the topic.
Don’t be too strict about the end of the meeting; sometimes the best creative ideas rise in the last minutes.
Suggestion: once the meeting is over, use Rock to create a topic, so people can continue to add ideas even after the meeting. A topic in Rock is very similar to a thread anywhere else. It is like an extension of a brainstorm meeting to give space for some creative ideas to occur at a later point that day, week or month.
Weekly team meeting
Between 20 and 30 minutes. This kind of meeting is important for staying organized at work through weekly updates. It should not take much longer than 20 or 30 minutes.
This meeting is usually arranged every week at a designated time. It addresses action items and roadblocks, as well as tasks and questions for the upcoming weeks.
A regular weekly team meeting can help team members progress better with their work and collaborate with their peers. But remember to have a clear purpose and don’t bore your colleagues with unnecessary too long meeting time.
Suggestion: share important information in a meeting agenda beforehand. Apply these meeting agenda examples to bring structure to your conversations.
Preferably less than 10 minutes. A daily standup should be as short as possible, ideally less than 10 minutes! In this daily moment, usually during the morning, you can give your team an update on what everyone is doing, how did it go yesterday and what is the plan for the day ahead.
You can navigate this short meeting using these three questions:
- What did you do yesterday?
- What will you do today?
- Anything blocking your progress?
Suggestion: As an alternative, you can create a topic on Rock for daily stand-ups and have team members communicate what they will be working on by @mentioning the respective tasks. It makes it easier to follow up and provide more context.
20-30 minutes. Retrospectives usually come at the end of a sprint or at the end of a project to talk about what went well and what can be improved. They promote knowledge and value sharing while working together. These open conversations last about 20 minutes or half an hour.
In a retrospective, people discuss their thoughts about workflows or about a specific project. It is a space for employees to express concerns freely through a sense of trust and open communication.
Suggestion: look into how to run a retrospective successfully. You can start by setting a clear agenda with discussion points. You should try to have only relevant people involved.
Between 20 and 30 minutes. Meeting duration is important here: don’t make a coffee chat too long! Think about how long you realistically expend drinking a coffee: most probably, not much more than 30 minutes.
A coffee chat is a great idea for networking and interacting with people across teams in a less formal way. Don’t be shy to make small talk, but stay away from sensitive topics.
Suggestion: these meetings are great for culture building. You can use these informal meetings to get to know new colleagues within the company.
Virtual meetings best practices
Now that you have a clear idea know of how long a meeting should be, let’s have a look into virtual meetings best practices:
- 30 minute meeting rule: As we explained before, some theories state that if meetings are around 30 minutes maximum, people are quicker in making decisions. When you have this timing, getting started and getting the most out of meeting time becomes easier. Use the 30 minute rule to improve meeting productivity.
- Set up a meeting agenda well in advance: Allow people to read through documents, add items and complete what is going to be discussed so you get the most out of your time. If the agenda is empty, then canceling might be a solution. Use these meeting agenda examples.
- Don’t overdo meetings: Be mindful of scheduling meetings. If something can be done asynchronously (by using tasks, messages, comments or notes) then don’t schedule a meeting.
- Learn to say no to meetings: If you have no input on a meeting or there is no value added to your presence in a meeting, say no.
- Async by default, synchronous when really needed: Move to asynchronous work by default. This way you can prioritize things that are actually important, and leave meeting time for activities that truly bring value.
Rock your meetings!
Reduce the length and the number of your meetings while improving communication in your team with Rock’s all-in-one functionality. All-in-one brings together different ways of communicating and connects to other commonly used apps (e.g. Zoom, Google Meet, Google Drive, Dropbox, Figma, Adobe CC). It simplifies work by minimizing platform switching.
Instead of scheduling meetings that you don’t need, you can, for example, set up tasks on Rock. You can describe all important details in the description section. Assign tasks to team members to complete without an unnecessary meeting beforehand. Continue the conversation on the task level and allow employees to work in their own time.
With Rock, you can reduce the number of meetings by switching to different types of communication. And if you decide to have meetings, remember the 30 minutes rule. Make sure you set up a meeting agenda beforehand so you start and finish on time. When you have meetings, use meeting notes with Rock to capture the most important information and keep it accessible after your meetings.