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June 1, 2015

When Meetings Go Wrong

We’ve all attended meetings that went on forever and didn’t accomplish anything. Since meetings take up a large part of our time at work, we need to keep them on track—especially if we aren’t the meeting leader!Man cheering others sleeping

  • Arrive early and ask the meeting leader to share the objectives for the meeting and review the agenda at the start to ensure that everyone is on the same page.
  • If the meeting leader lets participants wander into non-agenda items, speak up. Be courteous, but assertive. Say something like, “I think we’re off track here. Why don’t we put this in a parking lot and return to it later if there is time.”
  • If a discussion is going on past the allocated time on the agenda, and the meeting leader is letting it go on, ask a question like this of the group, “We’re spending a lot of time on this issue right now, and it looks like we might not cover the other agenda items. Should we stay focused on this or move on?”
  • Some meetings go past the end time. If you no longer need to participate in the remaining agenda items or discussions, excuse yourself and leave. If you need to stay, ask about how much longer the meeting is expected to go on so you can notify your staff.

When you’re not the meeting leader, assertive communication can help you keep meetings moving in the right direction to get the results you need. Also see my blog post Keeping Meetings on Track for more information.

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