Sometimes this happens because of traffic delays, or early speakers running overtime. The result: Depite your best plans, you fall behind schedule. This puts pressure on the remaining speakers. They may end up frazzled. For sure, content will be rushed and, at the end of the day, participants may leave feeling dissatisfied.
Here are a few ways to help avoid and/or deal with these situations.
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Averting the problem in the first place is the best approach. Here’s how:
- Set more realistic time frames in the first place.
- Avoid scheduling wall-to-wall content. A packed agenda is a big reason meetings fall behind. Cramming too much into a meeting serves no one.
- Build in buffers. You’ll often find that you shoot right through them. So create buffers based on a worse-case scenario. The first buffer should be 30 minutes in to accommodate late arrivals. Build a buffer around lunch, too, and include a 30- to 45-minute buffer at the end of the day.
- Set up two versions of your agenda. The first should be for participants. The second should be a behind-the-scenes agenda for logistical planning. Include your buffers.
- Ask speakers to cover the most important content first. Make it clear that “must-have” content takes priority over “nice-to-have” or “interesting-to-know” content.
- Ask speakers to build two slide decks. The backup deck should be based on a compressed time frame in case the meeting falls behind.
- Monitor the time closely. Make sure you give speakers a warning signal when they’re nearing the end of their allotted time.
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- Don’t shorten breaks. Doing this usually backfires. When people are overloaded, they can’t absorb more content. Participants may take out their frustrations on the speakers. Instead, shorten lunch by 15 minutes. Work closely with the banquet team to have coffee available in the meeting and breakout rooms immediately after lunch. Serve dessert during a break.
- Ask speakers to use the shorter, backup slide deck.
- Preview the next session and poll the audience. By a show of hands, ask participants to identify what content from the next session is most important to them, and then focus on that content first.
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Do these tips work for you? What else might you do to keep your event on time or get it back on track when it runs away? Please continue the conversation in the comment box below.