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Rein in meeting disruptions

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in Meeting Management,Office Management

Few things annoy office workers more than unnecessary and un­­pro­­ductive meetings, surveys find. People wander off topic, send texts instead of listening, and behave in all sorts of dysfunctional ways.

Keep your team meetings on task by adopting a few techniques. The first step is to make sure everyone is clear on the agenda and redirect people back to that agenda when they ramble or interrupt, say executives and meeting planners.

You may need to get creative in how you do that. Dana Brownlee, founder of Professionalism Matters, a corporate-training company in Atlanta, found that an Elmo doll provided an effective solution to curbing ramblers. She puts the doll in the center of the meeting table and tells participants, “Anytime anybody in the session thinks we’re getting off track, pick up the Elmo doll.” This allows co-workers to express frustration without interrupting, she says.

Another common derailer of meetings: interrupters. Brenna Smith, founder and CEO of SheNow.org, a website for women, found an effective way to rein them in when she was making a slide presentation to her new boss and 10 colleagues several years ago. Mid-sentence, a co-worker stood up and walked toward the front of the room, arguing that her ideas wouldn’t work.

She successfully deflected the attack by saying, “I think you’re making a really good point, but I want to finish what I’m saying first so we can talk about my ideas, and then we can talk about yours if we have time.”

He retreated to his seat, she finished her presentation and her proposal was adopted.

— Adapted from “Meet the Meeting Killers,” Sue Shellenbarger, The Wall Street Journal.

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