Your 15 Minutes of Fame: Making The Most of Meetings

“In the future everybody will be world famous for fifteen minutes.” —  Andy Warhol (as quoted in February 1968)

I’m not sure Warhol was right, but I think the idea that fame is fleeting makes perfect sense.  Especially in the world we’re living in, almost everything noteworthy only endures as such for a few moments… then whatever made it “notable” is soon overshadowed by other “notables.”

In the business environment, this phenomenon also provides us with a remarkable opportunity – to shorten our meetings.  According to a recent article in The Wall Street Journal, some companies are now making the 15-minute meeting the standard. Accepting the reality of short attention spans to make the most of meetings at work: trying for 15 minute meetings.

Writer Anne Marie Chaker described studies of the workplace:

“Over three-fourths of employees say shorter meetings are more efficient, according to a new poll of more than 2,000 workers conducted in September by market research firm CivicScience.  One-third of respondents said they stop paying attention after 15 minutes anyway.” [1]

It has probably taken us far too long to realize this, but it’s certainly the reality we face in our distracted business climate.  We just don’t have the ability to focus in a meeting for more than a few minutes.  Think about casual conversations – how many do you have every day that you don’t even remember?  Meetings are even worse.  I cannot imagine how many hours of my life have been wasted in long meetings, well before the Information Age created electronic overload.

I’ve seen too many leaders who suffer through long, back-to-back meetings every day. Everyone loses when the leadership is exhausted by early afternoon on a routine basis.  Productivity, profitability, and retention are but a few of the missed opportunities here.

Now’s the time for your 15 minutes of fame if you’re in charge of meetings.  Establish strict time limits for them.  Use stand-up meetings and walking meetings more often.  Require advance preparation by every attendee and reduce the number of people who attend.

What you’ll soon discover is your meetings are more efficient and effective.  Morale will improve as team members realize they have more “white space” on their calendars.  Put more time between meetings too, so people can prepare and come in focused.  One simple change can make an enormous difference – but make sure you’re willing to stick to this ‘short meeting’ standard.  Otherwise, it could become another “flavor of the month” in the eyes of your team.  Enjoy the journey!

[1] “A Quarter Hour Makes Meetings Meaningful” by Anne Marie Chaker in The Wall Street Journal, (October 5, 2023), p.A11.

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