December 24, 2015

12-Minute Meetings (Revisited)

The 12-Minute Series was originally posted in 2012.

We’ve decided to republish it integrally because we believe it can still help as everyone aspires to make things better.

Let’s hope it stirs up the discussion and stimulates you to change the world 12-Minute at a time!

This article was originally posted on June 12, 2012

Sometimes, meetings can be a drag, especially when your boss likes to listen to himself for endless and countless hours. Furthermore, he’ll probably be upset afterwards because you missed some of his points and you lacked time to complete all your work.

Maybe someone could introduce him to the 12-Minute Segment Rule.

Use The 12-Minute Segment Rule

During a meeting, each speech or presentation should be limited to 12-Minute segments because for most people, the optimum concentration period is only 12 minutes. Beyond that, the average person won’t be able to focus and follow explanations.  

To effectively get your point across, try to stay concise and brief.

If your topic requires more time, you should at least plan to change the pace after 12 minutes. For instance, you could answer questions, tell a funny story, use a different media or set up a brainstorming session.

For more lively presentations, try moving around from time to time. By changing their perspective, participants should be more inclined to follow you and should understand you better.

Using 12-Minute segments should not necessarily be a strict rule. But by keeping it in mind, it should easier getting other to really understand you.

The 12-Minute Segment Rule should not be viewed as a limiting concept but rather as a basic rule of thumb to help you improve the impact and effectiveness of your meetings.

So, during your next presentation, if you surprise some people yawning or they seem to become too uncomfortable in their chair, maybe it’s a pretty good sign you probably reached the infamous 12-Minute barrier.

And if you reach that limit way before 12 minutes, reconsider your career as a public speaker; unless your group is really tired, looks like you’re simply too dull!   

Prepare and Follow-up on Meetings

For most companies, time spent attending meetings is very costly. Next time you’re in a meeting, just rapidly add up salaries around the table…most of the time, the surprising result is a pretty hefty hourly wage.

So, you should try to reduce time wasted in meetings.  

A great way to make meetings count is to rigorously prepare for them.
Time spent individually is often much more productive and will preserve precious and costly group time. Thus, ensuring meetings will be worthwhile.
Ahead of each meeting, the meeting organizer should send concerned participants instructions and documents to be read or prepared. Be sure to send these early enough so that everyone as time to properly process them.

If possible, electronic versions of presentations should also be provided before the actual meeting. That way, people won’t waste focus on taking notes, they will be able to concentrate during the presentation and only note specific and significant details.

Another way to minimize precious meeting time is to limit the number of participants.

Every person in a meeting should be concerned by most topics. It’s usually not a good idea to ask someone to attend a long meeting when they are only affected by a single point. It’s often more effective to schedule more than one meeting with different participants or to convey some participants for only their part of the meeting.

If a discussion can be expected, the process can become pretty hectic when more than 12 people sit around the same table (Magic Number 12 again!). Hence, you should try to plan discussion in smaller groups.

It’s also an efficient practice to follow-up on each meeting.  

The meeting organizer should write down what exactly is expected of everybody and include specific deadlines.

For simpler changes, a 12-Day follow-up is generally adequate.
For more significant changes, expect results in a 12-Week span.

When research or additional information is required, the meeting organizer should make sure necessary documents are sent to follow-up on details or clarifications.

It also should be verified that every representative has followed-up with their respective group or team.

To ensure they can be adequately processed and assimilated, consequent directive or written instructions should be limited to a maximum of 12 lines or include a maximum of 12 points.

Adjust the Scheduling of Meetings

Because meeting time is so precious, always start on time. Being punctual is a very productive habit and it denotes a mark of respect for each other.

Some people, thinking that they are more important than others, are always late and the whole group has to wait for them. Make sure they understand (even if it’s the big boss), that everybody’s time is precious.

Attempt to plan for shorter meetings with fewer points; it normally translates into more effectiveness. Try to limit the agenda of a meeting to less than 12 points. If it seems impossible, spread it across more than one meeting or continue after a significant recess like a lunch-break.

To keep your audience fresh, take more frequent but shorter breaks.

We tend to lose track of the subject or discussion with long breaks. For longer meetings, two or three quick 12-Minute breaks often do the trick.

Schedule the length of your meetings according to the more flexible 12-Minute Approach.

For instance, break down the schedule into 12-Minute Periods instead of the classic 15-minute ones.
Or maximize your efforts with strong or weak half hours (3x12 = 36 minutes or 2x12 = 24 minutes).

Also take into consideration that people actually have to get to meetings; so reserve some time for transfers back and forth. To accomplish this, some people like blocking their schedule 12 minutes before and after meetings.


Again, you should not be too boxed-in by our suggestions. Be open-minded and try experiencing them first hand. You’ll be surprised of the results when you put some of our concepts into practice. And remember; Practice makes perfect

Always view the 12-Minute Approach as a wonderful way to implement small adjustments to improve and maximize your activities.

Thank you for reading! We hope you enjoyed and will be inspired by all these ideas about handling meetings.

Your comments are always welcomed as we constantly seek to get things done in a more effective 12-Minute Way!  We wish you to make the most of your upcoming meetings!

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