Take a break!
If your meeting will be longer than 90 minutes, you need to plan a break. If you do not, you run a high risk of participants getting fatigued and tuning out. Or even disappearing entirely. If nothing else, they need a biological break!
When to schedule breaks and for how long?
Look at the amount of time you will need for your meeting. Consider your agenda. Anecdotally, I have found that people need a “bio break” more often when the content of the meeting is dull or one-way (someone talking at them) rather than in an interesting discussion. Your experience may differ. Also, will your agenda permit a break between topics or can you combine two or three, if short, to allow a good breaking point?
Keep breaks to a maximum of 15 minutes. A lot of time can be lost while people run “for a minute” to get coffee or a soda or worse, a phone call. Sages say,
“There is no such thing as a 5-minute break.” Before anyone leaves the room, tell them how long the break will be so they can police themselves. If necessary, ask for a volunteer to round up attendees two to three minutes before the end of the break and then herd them back to your meeting.
An alternate “break” can be simply allowing people to move around the room to keep the blood flowing. For example, having the group stretch or interact briefly with people sitting near them is a good technique. I often pair people up for short thinking exercises at key points to boost the energy.
Consider having refreshments in the meeting room so participants stay put and breaks do not stretch beyond the allotted time.
If you have an additional way you use or plan for breaks, please share it in the comments section.