We’ve all been there…the meeting is going ok, then someone takes it off track and you end up spending a long time on subjects that are not part of the agenda and wasting everyone’s time. You need to be assertive and take control. What’s the best way?
Firstly, when you’ve become aware of the digression, simply say, ‘What’s the connection between this subject and our agenda item?’ This will bring the group back to what you were initially discussing and help people to see you’re interested in results and good time-keeping.
If the discussed subject is of importance and still off agenda, you might wish to ‘park’ it for another time, either at the end of the meeting if you have time, or make it the subject of another meeting, but only if it’s really important to do so. You may find some people bring obtuse subjects up simply so they can control the direction of the meeting, or set an agenda for another meeting.
Outside the meeting environment, you might want to raise this tendency to drift off subject sometimes, and get the team’s agreement to stick on the agenda items so the meeting isn’t hijacked.
You also might want to have a quiet word with the people responsible after the meeting, just to ensure they recognise that keeping the meeting on track is for everyone’s benefit.
Remember also to think back on why the meeting might have digressed onto different subjects…maybe not all attendees had agreed to the original agenda, or maybe there are pressing issues that need visiting and you haven’t addressed them efficiently yet. Whatever the reasons, be aware of people’s time and don’t allow the agenda to be ignored.
Originally published: 21 July, 2010
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