Meeting Time Optimization: How to Make Every Minute Count
Picture this: it's Monday morning, you're sipping your freshly brewed coffee, and eager to kick off a productive week. But as you scan your calendar, you're met with a sense of dread - an endless list of back-to-back meetings.
Sound familiar? If so, you're not alone. Inefficient meetings have become a notorious time-drain, often leaving little time for actual work. In this dedicated guide we will walk you through:
- General theory on the best meeting duration
- How much time you should spend per type of meeting
- Virtual meetings best practices
- How to cancel a meeting: free template and step-by-step process
No more aimless discussions; it's time to take back control of your schedule. Don't just survive your workweek—thrive in it!
What is the best meeting duration?
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 argues that, if done well, meetings are “short, sharp and productive”.
This meeting length limit 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.
Unless you have a very clear goal in mind, there is a danger that a meeting will be a waste of time, according to 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 can establish the best length when arranging meetings.
Note that there are exceptions. The length of meetings depends on the nature of each conversation. You also can’t be too strict with certain stakeholders (i.e. customers or clients).
Let’s have a look at the most typically occurring meetings and their recommended duration.
Types of meetings and their recommended duration
Meetings can be effective tools within your workplace collaboration, team effectiveness and efficiency, and culture building.
In some cases though, meetings don’t need to happen at all. This is especially true in the case of asynchronous work, where teams work through task management and heavy documentation.
Next up: the 9 main kinds of meetings and how long they should last.
1. Information sharing
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.
Meeting time: 0 minutes. You should share information whenever it has been properly documented. This allows people to take the necessary time to process information and prepare feedback and questions.
Subsequently, the team can schedule a brainstorming call (typically 30 minutes) or a short meeting to discuss the contents, ask questions, make decisions and provide input.
Think of the following activities as information sharing: company updates, lectures, presentations, walkthoughs.
Suggestion: 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.
2. Best time for meetings: regular 1:1 chats
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.
Meeting time: Between 20 and 40 minutes. Make sure to balance conversations around work, interpersonal relationships and professional development in these meetings. Depending on the frequency, a meeting duration between 20 and 40 minutes is optimal.
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 your workload, your general satisfaction level and personal experience within the company.
Regarding the meeting duration, a common best practice is to schedule a 1:1 for 30 minutes, and then have 10 minutes extra open after in case of the meeting running over.
Suggestion: in a remote environment, try to keep these conversations face-to-face. Make sure that your equipment allows high quality video and audio for a better experience.
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.
Meeting time: 30 minutes. Learning how to meet with clients is one of the most important tasks you can complete.
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 more effective and productive without going overtime.
4. All hands or town hall
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.
Meeting time: 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.
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. You can nurture company culture through a quiz or by setting up breakout rooms. Give everyone a chance to ask questions and interact.
A brainstorming meeting encourages participants to generate and share ideas freely, often focusing on solving a specific problem. The primary goal is to stimulate creative thinking, foster innovation, and encourage open communication among team members.
Meeting time: 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. Don’t be too strict about the end of the meeting; sometimes the best creative ideas rise in the last minutes.
Shorter intervals 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.
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.
6. Weekly team meeting
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.
Meeting time: 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.
A regular weekly team meeting can help team members progress better with their work and collaborate with their peers. Remember to have a clear purpose, defined meeting agenda and don’t bore your colleagues with unnecessary too long meeting time.
Suggestion: share important information in a meeting agenda beforehand. Take a look into these meeting agenda examples to bring structure to your conversations.
7. Daily standup
A daily stand-up is a brief, time-boxed meeting where each team member provides a concise update on their progress, plans for the day, and any obstacles they may be facing. The purpose is to maintain transparency, alignment, and accountability while identifying potential roadblocks early on.
Meeting time: Preferably less than 15 minutes. A daily standup should be as short as possible, ideally less than 15 minutes! Daily standups are usually conducted in the morning.
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: Create a topic on Rock for daily standups 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.
8. Retrospective meeting
A retrospective meeting is a structured review session held after the completion of a project, sprint, or specific milestone. Team members reflect on the process, identify successes and areas for improvement, and discuss actionable steps to enhance future performance.
Meeting time: 20-30 minutes. These open conversations last about 20 minutes or half an hour. 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.
Remember that during retrospectives employees should be able to express concerns freely through a sense of trust and open communication.
Suggestion: Follow our guide on 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.
9. Coffee chats
A coffee chat is an informal, casual conversation between two or more individuals. The purpose is to build rapport, share ideas, network, or discuss work-related topics in a more laid-back environment.
Meeting time: Between 15 and 30 minutes. Meeting duration is important here: don’t make a coffee chat too long! Think about how long you realistically spend 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 your organization 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.
- 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. Use these meeting agenda examples.
- Don’t overdo meetings: Be mindful of when you schedule 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. Prioritize things that are actually important, and leave meeting time for activities that truly bring value.
How to cancel a meeting: free template and step-by-step process
Time is your most precious resource. It's always in short supply, and you can't create more of it.
Wasting time, whether it's yours or someone else's, should be avoided. Ideally, every meeting on your work calendar should be efficient and contribute value. Unfortunately, this isn't always the reality.
As a result, learning how to cancel a meeting is an essential skill in today's professional landscape. It's particularly important if you want to reclaim productivity without damaging relationships.
Our "How to Cancel a Meeting" guide covers:
- Legitimate reasons for issuing a meeting cancellation notice
- Methods to cancel meetings: when to use each one & examples
- The fundamentals of canceling a meeting
- Strategies to prevent cancellations altogether
Additionally, you can access all this information in a dedicated project template! Edit and customize details, collaborate with others, and access meeting cancellation resources and tailored workflows.
Are you ready to become a proficient expert in canceling meetings? Dive in or begin with the FREE dedicated template!