Stop wasting time

Published on 30 May 2022

An article in the Changing Conversations: Changing Outcomes programme.

Watch retailers are known for displaying their products to show the time of 10:10. Why? Because it sells watches. It creates the space for the brand name and logo to be clearly visible. And the position of the hands puts a smile on the face of the product which makes for a positive and appealing display. These two things make a purchase more likely.

The ‘10:10’ principle can also be applied when Chairing meetings. Meetings are a use of time after all. Here’s the idea. In an hour meeting, allow up to 10 minutes for the beginning. And up to 10 minutes for the ending. Do this and you’ll have better meetings and happier people.

Here’s what’s behind this idea and what makes it work:

The first 10-minutes of any meeting is wasted: People come into meetings from other meetings. They’re still carrying thoughts and emotions from the previous meeting with them. They arrive, but they’re not fully present. And they’re not ready to begin.

People need time to get ready to begin: they need a moment to shake off ‘before’ and enter ‘now’. They need time to decompress and recompress. This time needs to be created and that’s how you use the first 10-minutes.

Using the first 10-minutes differently makes the next 40 more worthwhile: You get more out of your people. Attention levels rise, curiosity and listening increase, the meeting generates better thinking and more of it. As a Chair you set these 10-minutes up to enable them to do that.

Similarly, the last 10-minutes of a meeting is key. And yet most meetings do not allow for the fact that the meeting needs to end in a particular way. Typically, endings begin with an alert statement from the Chair, the philosophically inclined “I’m conscious of time” or the more practical “We’re coming up to time now” are favourites.

When I imagine a Chair creating a more useful ending, I always think of a pilot landing a plane. Meetings tend to be landed in a rather nosedive fashion, oxygen masks dropping down and luggage dropping out of the overhead bins as the group hurtles towards the ground.

Imagine the kind of landing that would serve you and your group better: As a Chair, commence your descent 10 minutes before the time that your meeting is due to finish. And begin to end. Doing this means that by the time the ending arrives you’re taxiing to the upstand.

There will be time for proper departures: as opposed to those hastily delivered in the chat, or people just drifting away. And you can thank everyone and even ask for closing words before the doors to manual and on to the next.

Your meeting may even finish slightly early: which your participants will thank you for in this era of back to back meetings.

A couple of practical tips for Chairs when using the 10:10 principle

  • Discuss in advance: Invite those in your meeting to consider the idea and ask what would work for them. Add it to your agenda as a discussion point.
  • The 10-minutes is adjustable: Experiment and find what works for you and your group. Maybe downwards for fewer participants, upwards for more than 10 attendees.

Do you want to change the face of your meetings? If so, why not come along to my Changing Conversations: Changing Outcomes Masterclass: Effective Chairing: Making Meetings More Productive


John Scarrott
John Scarrott

Trainer and Coach, John Scarrott Training and Coaching

John Scarrott is a Trainer and Coach working with association professionals on their approach to speaking, chairing meetings, presentations, communication and influence. John is a former Membership Director, with over 25-years’ experience of making presentations. He is the retained trainer in Public Speaking and Presentation Skills for the AAE and also for the Institute of Data & Marketing. John is a professionally qualified coach with a Professional Certified Coach (PCC) Credential from the International Coach Federation. He has spoken in the UK and internationally working with association professionals across Europe and in India and Australia.