How to Start Meetings on Time?

Let’s say you want to start your meetings after minute or two once everyone connects and greets each other. Anyone connecting later is considered being late.

Lateness to meetings is bad according to science:

Meeting lateness correlates include job satisfaction, intent to quit, satisfaction with meetings in general, age, and conscientiousness.

How can you make (reasonably) sure that you start meetings on time? Let’s find out.

Probability of Meeting Starting Late

If each of us has a 10%* probability of being late, what’s the probability of our meeting starting late?

*In this example, every person comes late to 1 in 10 meetings on average.


The probability of each individual being on time is 0.9.

The probability of everyone being on time is 0.9^n, where n = number of people.

Let’s look at example for a team of 9 people. The probability of everyone being on time is 0.9^9 = 0.387 => 38.7%. This means there is over 60% chance the meeting will start late!

Larger the team, the worse it gets!

For a team of 20? 0.9^20 = 0.122 => 12.2%. There is about 88% chance the meeting will start late 😀

Small teams have higher chance of starting meetings on time

Look at this chart.

On the x-axis there are a couple of examples of team size (or number of meeting attendees), starting with a team of 3 and going up to 30 people.

On the y-axis you can observe the probabilities of meetings starting late.

Every individual team member (or meeting attendee) can have a certain probability of being late (1%, 2%, 5%, 10%, 20%). For 1%, every person comes late to 1 in 100 meetings on average. For 20%, it’s 1 in 5 meetings – ouch!

In large teams, even a small 5% chance of individual people being late makes the probability of meetings starting late very high. For example, there is a 75% chance that meeting of 30 people will start late!

The team of 5 people has less than 25% chance of starting meetings late. That’s better.

Furthermore, you can observe that the team size alone won’t save your meetings from being late. For 20% chance of individual people being late even a tiny team of only 3 will start late every second meeting!


So… How to start meetings on time?

Keep your teams small.
Don’t invite too many people to your meetings.

Make sure people don’t come late too often.

Alternatively, don’t wait for people to start the meeting and instruct those who are late to connect silently without disturbing the meeting.

How about you? Let me know in the comments.

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