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Proper workshop duration and estimating meeting length help set the schedules and expectations of participants. Stay cautious because if done incorrectly, your sessions risk premature completion and poor quality. Additionally, if your schedule expands, expect scheduling problems and erosion of session leader credibility.


General Guidelines for Estimating Meeting Length

Schedule workshops for no more than two (or three) days in length and strive to complete meetings within fifty minutes. Hence, time limits ensure that participants do not become too exhausted. Likewise, consistency encourages more reliable and prompt attendance.


Estimating Meeting Length

Estimating Meeting Length and Workshop Duration | Tips and Guidelines

Estimating Meeting Length

Schedule your meetings to begin at five past the hour or half hour. Conclude within fifty minutes, typically by five minutes before the hour or half-hour. Be the one session leader courteous enough to allow your participants time between meetings (ie, back-to-backs) to check their email, grab some coffee, etc.


Estimating Workshop Length

The workshop is the ultimate time-box—that is, work expands or contracts to fill the time allotted. Guesstimate how long each agenda step takes. Similarly. add up your times. When they total between sixteen and twenty-five hours, make it a three-day workshop. If less, make it a two-day (or partial) session. If more than thirty hours, you are better off to schedule two sessions (unless participants are subject to substantial travel time and costs).

Office politics, poor workshop environment (physical), lack of clear workshop definition or meeting purpose, and characteristics of the project all affect the risk of on-time completion.


Estimating Meeting Length

Following are guidelines for estimating workshops:

  • If a business is not clearly defined or widely differing opinions exist among the business people about the process they do or should go through, then schedule one high-level session to further scope the business (Context Diagram workshop) before defining what and how many detailed sessions to hold.
  • Define a discrete purpose for each multiple-day session. If the session appears to have two or more major reasons for existence, then it probably ought to be two or more sessions.
  • Participants for high-level workshops (Project Planning, Activity Flows, Context Diagram, Logical Modeling) come from diverse work backgrounds. However, for detailed workshops, the participants may work in only one or two areas. If it appears that there are many areas represented in a detailed session, the scope is probably too broad and you should break it into further and discrete sessions.
  • A two-day detailed Activity Flows workshop provides enough requirements for numerous Detailed Design approaches.
  • Adjust your estimates based on project or technique risk (see 
Risk Management). Low risk results shorten times. High risk results extend times.
  • A two- or three-day Activity Flows workshop provides the following:
    • Definition of a business process for a given area (specified scope).
    • Problem identification and high-level requirements for a major portion of any project or initiative.
  • A two- or three-day Activity Flows combined with a two- or three-day Logical Modeling workshop covers the following:
    • Requirements for a new product or a software package that automates a focused business area (eg, forecasting).
    • Redefinition of a business (eg, redefining an existing process; eg, insurance agent commissions).
  • Planning sessions require two for Project Planning and three days for Organizational Design. The sessions may conclude quicker if you and your participants prepare thoroughly.


Estimating Meeting Length Tips

“PM 102” by Francis Webster provides some excellent tips on both estimating and controlling estimates, including some of his suggestions for reducing project duration:

  1. Alter the organizational structure
  2. Amplify managerial attention and involvement
  3. Apply additional resources
  4. Change the person responsible
  5. Define activities in greater detail
  6. Delete specified activities
  7. Enhance the supporting technology
  8. Expedite communications, materials, and work orders
  9. Improve the management information and control system
  10. Modify target dates
  11. Overlap activities
  12. Reallocate or reassign resources
  13. Reduce the scope of the project
  14. Subcontract or buy select services


Don’t ruin your career or reputation with bad meetings. Register for a class or forward this to someone who should. Taught by world-class instructors, MG RUSH  professional facilitation curriculum focuses on practice. Each student thoroughly practices and rehearses tools, methods, and approaches throughout the week. While some call this immersion, we call it the road to building impactful facilitation skills.

Our courses also provide an excellent way to earn up to 40 SEUs from the Scrum Alliance, 40 PDUs from PMI, and 40 CDUs from IIBA, as well as 3.2 CEUs for other professions. (See individual class descriptions for details.)

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Facilitation Expert

Terrence Metz, CSM, PSPO, CSPF, is the Managing Director of MG RUSH Facilitation Training and Coaching, the acknowledged leader in structured facilitation training. His FAST Facilitation Best Practices blog features over 300 articles on facilitation skills and tools aimed at helping others lead faster, more productive meetings and workshops that yield higher quality decisions. His clients include Agilists, Scrum teams, program and project managers, senior officers, and the business analyst community among numerous private and public companies and global corporations. As an undergraduate of Northwestern University (Evanston, IL) and MBA graduate from NWU’s Kellogg School of Management, his professional experience has focused on process improvement and product development. He continually aspires to make it easier for others to succeed.

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