Listicle: Five ways to stay on topic during a meeting
Preventing a meeting from going off track saves time and confusion
Meeting: when you raise an issue or ask a question, make sure it’s resolved before shifting to another topic
Teams have many ways of getting off track, and they usually do it collaboratively and subtly. Here are five ways that meetings typically go off topic, and how to prevent each one.
1 Not getting on the same track at the beginning Before the meeting, distribute an agenda with a purpose and items in the form of questions to be answered.
2 Not understanding your role in progressing the meeting For each item, each attendee should know if he or she is expected to share information, advise others, be part of a decision or just listen.
3 Creating multiple tracks that lead nowhere Within an agenda item, smaller on-topic conversations get started that don’t get finished.
Each mini-topic needs to be addressed to resolve the overarching question, but your team loses momentum when it starts down multiple tracks. So when you raise an issue or ask a question, make sure it’s resolved before shifting to another topic.
4 Not effectively addressing people who are off track When you tell someone “Let’s get back on topic” you assume that because you don’t see a relationship between the topic and what the person is saying, there isn’t one. If you take this approach, it’s likely that the person will keep raising the issue or stop participating.
Instead, ask what the connection is; you may learn that the person is thinking more systemically than the rest of the team and has identified an important issue.
5 Assuming that only the leader keeps everyone on track If you see that there isn’t a clear meeting purpose and process, you don’t know your role in the meeting, or people are getting off track, say something. – Copyright Harvard Business Review 2016
Previously published in The Irish Times.
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