Someone told me that you should spend as much time preparing for a meeting as you will spend in the meeting.
For example if your meeting in scheduled from 3:00-4:30 then you should spend 1-1/2 hours of your day preparing for the meeting as well.

How do you feel about this?

PaulSchweer's picture
Admin Role Badge

Hello EastBay,

I feel... pretty good about it.


Paul Schweer

stephenbooth_uk's picture

I think it depends on the type of meeting and what you're trying to achieve.

If it's your regular staff meeting that basically exists so you don't forget what each other looks like and for the team manager to cascade information then prep time will be minimal. Just need to decide what you're going to say and what you're not going to say.

If you're primarily facilitating a meeting but others are providing most of the content then prep time will be similarly short.

If you are providing content and trying to pitch an idea then prep time could be huge. You've got to prepare your materials (slide decks, supplementary documents &c), practice your presentation, re-edit your materials, re-practise your presentation, pre-wire the key decision makers and people who might be able to influence the key decision makers. Finally you've got to get a good night's sleep before hand and make sure that your good suit is clean and pressed and that your lucky tie/socks/shoes/whatever is ready. OK, that last bit might sound a bit facetious but I wanted to indicate the level of detail (and therefore time commitment) that might be needed.

A meeting takes as long to prepare for as it takes to prepare for or as long as you can spare to prepare for it. Trying to slap some standard time on the prep and apply it to every meeting is doomed to failure. You can spend 5 minutes preparing for a 1 hour meeting (if it's a routine meeting) or 50 hours (maybe 500 person hours) preparing for your 5 minutes in a meeting if the issue is important enough.

You need to decide what you want to get out of the meeting, what you need to do to get there and how valuable that outcome is to you. The value will dictate how much time you can spend on the prep (what can you drop, delay or delegate to make time for the prep), the what will give you an estimate on how much time you need to spend on the prep. Hopefully the first figure is bigger than the second, otherwise you need to re-evaluate the value or re-scope the what.


HMac's picture

Stephen's got it right...

I'd just add that when I'm preparing for a presentation, I can spend 2x-4x the amount of time in preparation...

A rule of thumb I work with is to analyze the amount of time in a meeting THAT's "MINE" (so it could be 20 minutes of a larger 90 minute meeting), and set aside 2 to 4 blocks of time that equal them amount (again, in this example, I'm setting aside 2 to 4 blocks of 20-30 minutes for prep...).

I've found that setting aside all the time in one big block isn't as effective. So I spread it out, giving time to percolate new ideas, and to get "fresh eyes" when I'm editing...


jhack's picture

2x - 4x seems low for a presentation. If it's a "low risk" environment, then a direct should be given the opportunity to present. Otherwise, the presentation should be either a delegation to a rising star, or something you do yourself after pre-wiring, practicing, etc. That will take much more than 2x - 4x.


Davis Staedtler's picture


I prefer to not be so overly prepared or familiar with my subject matter, that I can neither inspire nor challenge my own intellect and behavior.

I prepare a little until I feel like I'm forcing my thoughts and ideas. Then I step away and come back to it. Evernote is my best friend in the world. It's on the web, on my Mac and on my iPhone. I jot ideas, record my thoughts and snap pictures. I sit back down to assemble until I have a sense that I am no longer inspiring myself. Then I know I need another break. Typically, on average, for a 1 hour meeting I'll spend 1 week doing this. Something good always comes to me about 5 minutes before I give the presentation. My personality is to give myself some creative space for new ideas and thoughts to generate as I'm actually presenting. Professional presenters would scoff at this probably, but I'm wired to think on my feet and create fusion in the moment.


thaGUma's picture

I can see from the posts. If you are contributing, or want to gain most out of the meeting - spend more time.

If you are presenting then probably spend more time than the meeting will last....

End result = length of meet is not a guide to how long you should spend.

Focus on your contribution.


HMac's picture

Chris sums it up pretty well. The only point I'd add is to ask for feedback from a few people after every presentation.

YOU may think you're great (I know I do!), but that doesn't really matter. Just like "communication is what the listener does", great presentations are determined by
the audience, not the presenter.


asteriskrntt1's picture

As many have mentioned (and HMac's last suggestion is gold), it depends on a number of factors.

One of the factors needs to be when you start counting your time.  If you are doing something really major - maybe a presentation to senior management to win approval for something requiring significant resources and capital - I would figure in the time you need to spend pre-wiring the meeting and collecting your data.  Your actual presentation prep would be over and above this time. 

So if you scope out your project and estimate that you need to meet with 15 people 3 times each to get everything you need, that is part of your meeting prep.  Or at least it is in my way of thinking.