Meeting Breaks - Part 1

Questions This Guidance Answers: 
  • When should I give breaks in my meetings?
  • Can I give ad hoc breaks in my meetings?
  • How do I deliver a break during a meeting?

This cast describes how to schedule and how to action breaks in meetings.

This is one of those casts we just never thought we'd do. We are like everyone else, in that we mostly assume that everyone else knows what we know, and does things the most effective way when they know it. But recently we've observed some meetings, and the way they handled breaks really surprised us. Not in a bad way - we just felt like we weren't doing our jobs. We've seen meeting breaks done well, and poorly, and it's our job to help everyone get them right. Sorry to the folks in those recent meetings that we didn't assume you'd want guidance in advance.

Meeting breaks are easy to schedule and do once we know the basics, and this cast lays out the basics quickly and easily.

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Interesting stuff, but this

Interesting stuff, but this suffers from much of what you talk about, specifically that this pertains to a certain type of meeting and not to ALL meetings.  This seems designed for an internal meeting that's focused on training or building a consensus - I think?  Not sure, but it doesn't directly apply to technical (or scientific) meetings or to panel meetings with external speakers, or a variety of other meetings that I routinely attend and manage.  For example, when the attendees are all very senior executives attending from across the country, I like 30 minute breaks to allow them to deal with home office issues and to ensure effective networking time.

Everything you present is useful to think about, but setting your assumptions at the start would be great -- not all of us work in large, internal-project oriented companies. Thanks!

Lessons from Skydiving

There are two things that I learned from skydiving that are reiterated near the beginning of this cast.

First, "Slow is Fast." This is something that was part of each of my training dives as a student jumper. Here is a group that doesn't have much time to waste. Skydives have between 30 and 70 seconds of working time. When you try to rush through maneuvers and formations, you make mistakes that take twice as long to recover from. Now, freefalling at 120 mph doesn't give you much room for casual thought so you're constantly reminded that "slow is fast." When you're focused, deliberate, and not rushing, you're going to get to the next position faster and you'll have time to do more.

The second thing this case reminded me of was the 8-12-50 Rule. This was something I learned when I was training to be a skydiving coach. It was part of the How to be an Instructor training. Here it is:
Every 8 minutes have audience interaction
Every 12 minutes change the presentation style
Every 50 minutes take a break.

I've used the 8-12-50 Rule in my skydiving instruction, Air Force instruction, and business meetings. Like this cast, the timing has nothing to do with the topics. It is all about human physiology and psychology. The 8 minutes for audience interaction or participation is an absolute maximum time. If people are answering questions and participating every few minutes everyone will get more from it. The presentation styles can mean changing from a lecture to a discussion or a discussion to an audiovisual. I like to think about television programming for this one. What happens during a television program about every 12 minutes? Commercials. That is certainly a change in presentation style. I think this cast does a great job of explaining where the 50 minute rule came from.

San Diego