The 5-minute meeting rule execs swear by

To cut down on meeting bloat, some companies are drilling office discussions down to five minutes, Sue Shellenbarger reports for the Wall Street Journal.

Five-minute meetings can speed up minor decision-making—as long as participants stick to the allotted 30-second speaking time, says Aaron Shapiro, CEO at Huge Inc. Instead of PowerPoint presentations, participants distill their ideas into an elevator-pitch sized update, Shellenbarger writes. 

If employees speak more than their allotted time, Shapiro cuts them short by being what he calls "politely blunt." Netamorphosis CEO Lyde Spann adds a visual cue: she holds up a hand to the offending speaker. Similarly, if two participants share more than three back-and-forth exchanges, the topic is moved to a separate meeting, says Jack Skeels, CEO at AgencyAgile.

While five-minute sessions bring new energy and action to team meetings, leaders should be mindful of the effect on office culture, Marcel Schwantes writes for Inc.

The push towards hyper-efficient meetings may shrink the amount of time colleagues have to connect, says Spann. Five-minute meetings don't give colleagues the chance to socialize or build relationships, she adds.

Leaders who silence their employees too quickly may also miss out on a valuable insight or be seen as overly critical and unsupportive, Schwantes argues. And participants who are anxious about being cut off in front of their colleagues may have difficulty expressing their point, he adds.

One way to support more introverted meeting attendees is to give them time before and after meetings to collect their thoughts, according to Renee Cullinan, cofounder of Stop Meeting Like This. For example, you could send meeting attendees an agenda and any relevant background information before the meeting so they can plan their comments. After the meeting, you could send a summary of the discussion or decision and let attendees know they can send you follow-up thoughts, she recommends (Shellenbarger, Wall Street Journal, 11/13; Schwantes, Inc., 11/13).

Related: The 5 P's of productive meetings


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