Staying on track during meetings is easier than you might think.
First you need to determine why your meeting has veered off onto some meaningless tangent. There are three main reasons this occurs.
- The meeting does not have a clear purpose.
- The agenda is too loose or non-existent.
- Nobody is in charge.
Here are some ways of dealing with each problem.
- Set clear objectives. Make sure the group knows exactly what it needs to accomplish during the meeting. The more specific the objectives are, the easier it will be for people to remember to stay focused on them. Sometimes it also helps to be explicit about what will not be accomplished during a meeting.
- Develop an effective agenda. The agenda is the road map for accomplishing the objectives. There are many ways to deliver the objectives. The problem is that when you work as a group, chaos usually results if everyone doesn’t follow the same plan. Good meetings do not happen by chance. They are the result of careful planning.
- Put someone in charge. Somebody has to manage the discussion. Groups typically aren’t good at managing conversations without a clear leader. One person should act as a traffic cop for the discussion. This person lets people in, slows them down when they are going too fast, and definitely keeps them from driving off the road with a story or question that is not leading towards the objective.
Yes, meeting tangents are a common problem. Luckily for you, they are easy to prevent.
Image credit: Kevin Dooley