Best Time to Hold Business Meetings Is When?

by Shirley Fine Lee
Studies show there is no best time to hold a business meeting. However, acceptable times for having meetings can depend on the culture of a corporation, career type, work group, or country. The key to finding the best time is what will work for the group who is meeting and for the type of activities that are expected to be carried out in the meetings. If the meeting activity requires information sharing, then this can be done at a leisurely pace if desired or accomplished at a quicker pace to prevent too much irrelevant discussion. If the meeting requires a significant amount of participation, such as problem solving or idea generation, then a time when people tend to be most active and ready to work creatively would be preferred.

Early morning is often considered good for high participation meetings as people are much fresher and more ready to discuss ideas. Also participants have not yet encountered any problems with their regular work day that may distract their concentration. In contrast to early morning, if the desire is to keep meetings short, scheduling time later in the morning or just before lunch break will often keep people from going off-track as they do not wish to miss their lunch break. A pre-lunch meeting should be no longer than one hour.

Lunch meetings can be beneficial as they often save people some time by combining eating with getting work done or information shared in a group setting. Lunch meetings should include light, low-fat, and low-sugar foods containing both carbohydrates and proteins to boost alertness during meeting and decrease the sleepiness factor for the afternoon. Consider small sandwiches or salads containing chicken or turkey. No alcohol should be allowed in the meeting. Instead serve water or tea which is better for participants than sugary soft drinks.

Meetings held too early in the afternoon may conflict with people’s lunch schedule which could mean no shows or late comers. This time can definitely relate to their inner clocks, according to some studies many humans are wired for more restful functions from 2:00-4:00 PM. Some countries even encourage restful activities sometime after lunch. Since this could mean nap time to some, if a meeting is planned for mid-afternoon, it should be on a highly participative topic to keep people interested and not a meeting requiring lights-out such as presentations or viewing videos. Whereas, late afternoon meetings may be a more relaxed time as many will have much of their daily work already done and off their minds. However, if the meeting is too close to quitting time people may be thinking about what they need to do after work rather than concentrating on the meeting topic. Participants may get irritated if the meeting goes past the designated stop time as this may make them late for personal plans. If a hurried meeting where little time is wasted is desirable, then late afternoon might be a good time to plan the meeting as long as the agenda is adhered to and the meeting ends on time.

Other things to consider when holding a meeting is how long the meeting will be. Most informational business meetings can be covered in 30 to 90 minutes depending on the number of people sharing data and whether a question and answer period is allowed. Participative meetings may be one to two hours typically. However some meetings may require more time due to complexity of the issue to be discussed, urgency of the problem to solve, or needed training or change management to present to group. If a meeting is longer than an hour, a short break during the meeting should be planned. For meetings where participation is low, a break should be every 45 or 60 minutes to allow group to leave room for 15 minutes or stretch for 5-10 minutes. For high participation meetings like problem solving or idea generation, the breaks can be a little further apart and should be planned at logical changes in meeting activity or topic.

Since there is no best time to hold a business meeting, always plan a culturally acceptable time when people are most ready to work together. The key to finding the best time is what will work for the group who is meeting and for the type of activities that are expected to be carried out in each meeting, such as information sharing or a more participative process.

Shirley Fine Lee has considerable training and expertise in leading effective meetings and projects, as well as training others within the corporate world to be able to do the same. Her book, “R.A!R.A! A Meeting Wizard’s Approach”, is a much-needed guide to planning and conducting meetings so that they are as productive, effectual, and smoothly run as possible. Find out more about her, her books, and learning options she provides on her website