The Key to Productive Meetings: The Cardinals Know It

The cardinals in Rome have much to talk about as they participate in closed-door, pre-conclave meetings. In fact, some of them have so much to discuss that they have had to set up a 5-minute time limit. When the green light flashes, the speaker must halt.

It’s the best way to run a productive meeting. Time allowances for speakers prevent one person from monopolizing a meeting and encourages the speaker to organize his or her thoughts in a logical manner.

Why don’t more meeting chairs do this? Oftentimes, it’s because they don’t feel comfortable dictating to their members – some of whom may be higher ranking than themselves. But in the long term, the chair looks more capable, meetings finish on time, and more work gets done.

How do you set up the time limits? In the agenda. A good agenda doesn’t just list the topic for discussion. This would make the agenda just the chair’s grocery list. Effective agendas include the name of the person who will lead the discussion and the purpose for the discussion – update, decision required, or action needed. It also assigns a time limit for each topic. Obviously, if the topic becomes heated or more time is needed, the chair can make some adjustments during the meeting.

When in a meeting, do what the Romans do.

By Jane Watson