Pacing a meeting

One Sunday morning in August 2016, I was panting my guts out at the finish line of the Hyderabad half-marathon. I was in a haze, completely spent, and in disbelief. I had finished 15 minutes faster than my best training time on India’s hardest urban run.

What had I done differently that day? Just one thing – I had run alongside an expert pacer from the start line to the finish line. In distance running, a pacer is a seasoned runner who knows the track well enough to consistently finish it with a stipulated timing (they usually run with a flag bearing this timing). During uphills, my pacer ensured that we were slow and preserved our energy. On downhills, we relaxed and used gravity to step up our pace.

Pacing can be applied to events we face at work almost everyday – presentations and meetings. Pacing can be a force multiplier, that determines how useful a meeting can be for the entire group in attendance. What makes pacing so crucial?

In meetings, different parties necessarily have different perspectives. If everybody was on the same page, there would be no need for the meeting. The only absolute measure they have in common is the meeting’s time. Time is equally ruthless to the CEO and the intern at the meeting table. Pacing serves as the bridge that reconciles the subjective world of each attendee to that objective measure of time.

And by doing so, pacing can be the difference between bettering one’s training performance, and having everyone wish they had their time back.

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