SuperEval Blog

How to Run More Efficient Meetings in Your School District

February 4th, 2020

Inefficient meeting: Businesspeople Bored During Meeting In OfficeMeetings. Every well-run school district needs them, but poll staff members and you are likely to find that most people dislike attending them, and others fail to see their value. Such sentiments are understandable when you consider these statistics from Highfive:1

  • Every year since 2000, the time spent in meetings has increased by about 10%.
  • An average meeting lasts anywhere from 31 to 60 minutes.
  • There are only two to four people involved in 73% of meetings.
  • 73% of people multitask in meetings.

Given how much time people spend in meetings, and the fact that too often their time is not used efficiently to move projects forward, leaders must stop the cycle of meeting inefficiency, take back control of their calendars, and use face-to-face time with staff, parents, board and committee members, to make decisions and achieve progress on critical school initiatives. To improve the efficiency and effectiveness of your meetings, follow the six best practices below.

#1 – Reduce the Overall Number of Meetings

The first way to make meetings more efficient is to have fewer of them. According to Minute:2

  • Americans organize 11 million meetings every day.
  • Sixty-three percent of them do not have an agenda.
  • Forty-five percent are informational staff meetings.
  • Just over 33 percent of employees report that they feel the time spent was unproductive.

Meeting best practice:

Before you schedule a meeting, especially if it is only with a single individual, ask yourself this question: Could this be handled by email or a phone call instead? If the answer is yes, then put time back on your calendar by not scheduling a meeting.

#2 – Narrow Your Focus

Every meeting should have a goal and an agenda. The agenda should only have one to five items on it. Only schedule meetings with one clear purpose intended to achieve one or two main goals. Meetings that attempt to do too much are doomed for inefficiency. If you have led one such session in the past, then you know that every decision needs proper time for collaboration and discussion. If you attempt to accomplish too much, it may become challenging to focus the conversation and make any concrete final decisions.

Meeting best practice:

Sideboard or “parking lot” any other topics or conversations that come up that are not focused on the goal of the meeting or specific agenda items. It’s not that these items are not important, rather, they’re not why you’ve all come together for a discussion.

#3 – Only Schedule the Amount of Time You Believe You Will Need

Many email and scheduling systems such as Microsoft Office provide two default meeting times: 30 or 60 minutes. What should one do if only 20 minutes will be needed? Or 40? Or fifteen? If a meeting’s purpose can be achieved in 15 minutes or less, consider handling the discussion via email or phone stead. Otherwise, only schedule the amount of time you believe you will need. Why? When a group of people is scheduled together for more time, they will use it.

Think of meetings you have attended in which you completed your discussion early, and as a result, the attendees stayed to the end of the scheduled time to debate a different topic, or even just to chat. Such habits use more time than is necessary and keep staff members from other critical work, like parent meetings, grading, or community initiatives. Be respectful of peoples’ time and only use as much of it as you need to achieve your goal. Then end your meeting and dismiss your participants.

Meeting best practice:

Next to each item on your agenda, assign a certain amount of time that you’d like to spend on each one. Designate a meeting “Time Keeper”. This person will be asked to keep an eye on the time your team is spending on each agenda item. The time keeper will give a 5-minute warning to wrap up the discussion and discuss next steps.

#4 – Be on Time and Begin on Time

Organizations that become lax on meeting start and end times risk creating a culture in which participants do not feel a sense of urgency to be punctual. What happens as a result? The first five to eight minutes of the meeting time is spent making small talk while you “wait for just a few more people to arrive.” Even if all attendees have not yet joined the room, start your meeting on time. Doing so shows respect for those who were punctual, and eventually, chronic latecomers will realize that it is no longer culturally acceptable not to arrive by the start of the meeting.

Meeting best practice:

Set a 5 minute reminder on your smartphone or e-calendar so that you can wrap up what you are doing and be punctual for your meeting.

#5 – Ensure Everyone Has a Voice

Whether a meeting has two participants or 20, it is common for one voice to raise about all others. As the meeting leader, it is your responsibility to facilitate discussion to ensure that all participants have a voice and that the debate is not dominated by a small percentage of people and opinions. Ask people who have not spoken up for their feedback directly. Thank those who have already shared ideas for their input and encourage others to either conquer or provide alternate suggestions. When everyone contributes to the discussion, you will be confident that the consensus favors your collective opinions.

Meeting best practice:

If you have a very large group, you might want to break into smaller groups and assign each group a spokesperson. Then you can come back together as a large group and hear from each team individually, ensuring that all voices are heard.

Business cartoon showing a disheveled man trying to keep two irritable coworkers apart.

#6 – Mitigate Tension

A meeting can not be effective and efficient if participants spend time arguing among themselves. Also, if gatherings are allowed to escalate into uncomfortable, contentious, and argumentative situations, employees will begin to avoid attending.

Meeting best practice:

Facilitating a productive meeting includes calming tensions when the debate becomes heated. In those scenarios in which a meeting participant raises his or her voice and takes a combative stance, the first step you should take is to acknowledge their feelings. People who feel passionately about a topic want to vent and be heard. By verbally recognizing how they feel, even if it is not aligned with the majority sentiment, you will give them a chance to take a step back from their defensive position and listen in response.

Final Words of Advice

No school leader sees a future in which meetings with faculty, staff, parents, and the community are not part of a strategy of collaboration and open dialogue. What is vital, however, is using meeting time efficiently—to discuss critical initiatives and goals and make informed, consensus-based decisions. By leveraging these techniques, you can benefit from fewer meetings on your calendar, which will free up your time for other strategic initiatives. As a result, the meetings that do remain will be purpose-driven, positive, and constructive.


1. Highfive. (2019, April 30). 10 Video Conferencing Statistics. Retrieved February 4, 2020, from https://highfive.com/blog/10-video-conferencing-statistics

2. Minute. (n.d.). Too many meetings? How to determine if a meeting is necessary. Retrieved from https://www.getminute.com/too-many-meetings/

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