How to deal with a meeting (1)

How to deal with a meeting that’s going nowhere

We all have good and bad memories of the meetings we’ve attended. However, it’s often the bad memories that come to mind and give us anxiety whenever we get another notification for yet another meeting.

For example, it’s more likely that we remember the meeting that led to a serious argument among the board members or that meeting that continued to go around in circles and felt as though it would never end. Usually, in these meetings, no decision was actually made because someone kept interrupting and swaying everyone off of the agenda, the organizer had too many of his or her own strong opinions to share, the meeting ran overtime, and by the time it was over, everyone went home stressed out and totally unsatisfied.

What if there was a way to avoid the inconvenience and time-wasting potential of such meetings? Well, never fear because we’re here to ensure that your schedule stays clear (we’ll grab our coats).

Here are a few tips that will teach you to do just that:

Set a meeting agenda and make sure that it’s clear

If you’re the one in charge of the meeting, you need to make sure the agenda of the meeting is clear before you start. During the meeting, you also have to ensure that the meeting strictly adheres to this agenda. The agenda of the meeting includes all the topics you want to talk about and attend to, so it makes it easier for you to bring an attender back to reality if they start to deviate. Determine exactly what the meeting is about, for example; is it to revise the by-laws, plan volunteer recruitment, or something else? If you have no clear goal, a boring and unfocused meeting may be the result! Come up with a clear goal and the agenda becomes your roadmap to getting there.

Be the ultimate meeting timekeeper

The longer a meeting goes on, the more boring it has the potential to become and the less attention you’re going to get. If you’re the one in charge of the meeting, the onus is on you to control the length of the meeting. However, in case you’re not the one in charge of the meeting, it’s still okay for you to ask that the organizer adheres to the time. You can even give them a bit of a nudge if it starts to go on longer than expected.

Take a break if things start to get heated (or cold)

Taking a break before an argument starts to heat up or even when the meeting is started to become stagnant may be the best decision you make. As soon as you realize that the meeting is not going to plan, you should call for a break. This will not only help you take a breather, but it will also revitalize the group and give everyone a moment to reset. If you’re not uncomfortable, sometimes falling on your sword as an organizer and blaming the break on your lack of preparedness can disarm the opposing sides of the argument or tension. 

Don’t be scared to crack a few jokes

This might be difficult in some cases, or it may even be inappropriate, however in the right circumstance a joke can really cut the tension and break the ice in a meeting. It’s essential that you pick your moment though, if it exists at all during the meeting, as a poorly timed joke can do more harm than good. Being humorous once in a while during the meeting will also help ease everyone’s nerves and encourage them to be more open and honest. If you’ve covered some tough topics and the conversation involved negative decisions, the best thing for an organizer to do to wrap up and put things in perspective, often with a joke like “who’s ready for happy hour?”. 

Try a Silent Meeting

If the content of the meeting is too hot to handle in the moment, try getting some of the steam removed before the meeting, or even during it, but just silently. Progressive companies from Amazon to Square are trying this “Silent Meeting” technique, which involves allowing for the attendees to read, digest and comment on the pertinent information in isolation (or in a collaborative document) before opening up for verbal comments. It’s a small, but powerful way to make sure minorities, new hires, junior staff and introverts are heard.  Here’s an alternative to the silent meeting approach using BigTeam as a platform.

Rethink Meetings Altogether

Are humor, better note taking, and silence still not working? Perhaps you, your department and even your company need to rethink and evaluate your meeting strategy altogether. As organizations around the world are looking inward to find new ways of driving productivity, collaboration, and innovation, you can be sure that meetings will be the number one place they start.

We’re all so used to meetings that it sometimes seems as though it’s the core purpose of the work we do. We have our regular monthly meeting, then there are also weekly as well as daily meetings. They take up a large portion of our time because they’re generally the way we make our decisions, plan our actions, and identify the work we’re going to be involved in going forward. By following these tips and ensuring that your meetings stay on track, you can slowly start flooding out the bad memories with newly formed, great memories!


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