Address meeting disrupters

Disruptive behaviors in meetings are irritating to all attendees—not to mention time wasting. Use these tips to put a stop to disrupters and run smoother meetings:

  • Begin on time. Starting on time shows you value everyone’s time. Assign tasks to those who are chronically late, such as reviewing the minutes from the last meeting first thing.
  • Use an agenda. Explain that you will first cover all the topics on the agenda, and if there is time at the end, you will discuss other topics. That keeps people from going off on tangents or bringing up unrelated topics.
  • Take notes on a whiteboard. For those people who regularly don’t pay attention and repeat information, keeping notes allows you to point to the item on the list, express that you have covered it and then move on.
  • Assign jobs. For attendees who multitask and don’t pay attention or who like to chat on the side, assign meeting-specific tasks such as taking notes. That will force them to focus on the discussion.
  • Address behaviors one-on-one. If those tactics don’t work, address employees individually. Explain how their behaviors derail meetings, and provide them with specific ways to improve during future meetings.

— Adapted from “How to Deal With Ramblers, Bores, Show-Offs and Other People Who Sabotage Your Meetings,” Charlie Hawkins,