effective ways on starting meeting on time

Ah…the workplace meeting.

A time where deals are done, ideas come to life, and teams are forged – that is of course if the meeting actually starts on time which nowadays seems as likely as spotting an actual unicorn in Silicon Valley.

The fact is, meetings are necessary to keep both the communication and camaraderie alive within any organization but with so many meetings going awry or being unproductive, its no wonder people rarely show up on time – including the person calling the meeting. According to a recent workplace Harris Poll:

23% of workers believe that time spent in meetings is a waste. 

There are plenty of more stats as to why meetings are unproductive or how much it costs an organization to run an effective meeting but today I want to focus on what you can do to start your meeting on time. The rest of course is up to you.

Here are 11 ways I found in my research to be most effective in starting your meeting on time.

  1. Start The Meeting On Time (regardless who is there)
    It doesn’t matter if the senior most person isn’t present. If that person is critical to the meeting take place and you know your meeting hinges on their presence, then ask ahead of time if you can start without them. Worst- case scenario, you fill them in later.
  2. Make It Clear When the Meeting Starts
    Set expectations with your team. Make it clear that you expect to start the meeting at the appointed time. If you implement #1, it will very quickly become apparent to attendees that the 9AM meeting is not a 9:10 meeting.
  3. Don’t Give “Just a Couple More Minutes”
    Ever heard that one? “We’ll give just a few more minutes for those that are running late.” Don’t. (See #1 and #2). By allowing this behavior, you are essentially condoning it for the rest of the team.
  4. Pick a Good Meeting Time
    If your meeting is always starting late, maybe you need to pick a better time. Be aware of your team’s schedule and other obligations. If you have them running from one meeting to the next, they will be late. Also, be cognizant of their work schedule. If your companies’ culture is one where people arrive at 9:30am, then don’t set a meeting at 9:30 sharp. Make it 9:45. The same goes for after lunch. Know the norms of your organization.
  5. Make It a Short Meeting
    Most meetings are allocated too much time. Very few topics need an hour-long meeting. Instead, schedule it for 30 (or 15) minutes. It is easy to be 5 (or 10) minutes late to an hour-long event. People will be less likely to miss 10 minutes of a 15 minute meeting.
  6. Reward Those That Are On Time
    Let the early bird get the worm. It can be as simple as bringing refreshments. Or perhaps, those that are on time get first dibs on new projects.
  7. Don’t Let Latecomers Join
    This one is tough. However, have you ever been to a meeting that restarts 3 times to “catch up” those who are late? Don’t let this happen. Instead, do not let people join who are late. They can “catch up” on their own time. Some may think this is harsh, but it is about respecting those who were on time and ready to work.
  8. Set Consequences For The Last to Arrive
    One company had a rule that the last to arrive was responsible for taking meeting notes. Another required that last person to clean up the meeting room when all was said and done.
  9. Invite Only Those Who Need to Be There
    Want to set yourself up for success? Don’t invite extra cast members. It is much easier to get 3-4 people to a meeting on time than 8-10.
  10. Someone Must Enforce The Clock
    Every meeting should start with someone assigned to watch the clock. It should be someone’s job to say “We’re 20 minutes in”, “we have 15 minutes left”, “we have 5 minutes, so lets wrap up”. You’d be amazed how many meetings ramble for half the allotted time on topics not central to the reason for the meeting. Three breakpoints are all you need to remind everyone to stay on track.
  11. Plan To End 5 Minutes Early
    It’s insane but in all our infinite wisdom we continually plan meetings back to back with zero allotted time to get from meeting A to meeting B. If you always go to the last second, or go over, guess what you’re doing? You’re screwing over the next batch of meetings people need to get to. By ending early, you are sure to win over the hearts and minds of your audience, which is easy if you watch the clock.


  • Only Have Meetings That Matter
    If you had a meeting called “Lets discuss how awesome you are and how we can triple your salary” people will arrive right on time – the concept of a meeting isn’t bad, it’s what you fill it with that matters. If everyone is always late they’re telling you: this meeting is not important. Either learn how to make the meeting worthy of their time or don’t have the meeting.

Final thoughts:
If you called the meeting then it’s you responsibility to run it accordingly. Be an example for what you expect of others and model that behavior. This means showing up on time (which really means being 5-10mins early), provide a clear agenda in the meeting invite and then review at the start of the meeting and lastly manage the conversation and clock. Tick-tock…get going.

The floor is yours:
How do you keep your meetings on time?

Please leave your comment below as your insights are greatly appreciated and a learning opportunity for everyone reading this article.

With leadership,

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