7 Tricks to Keep Your Meetings on Track

7 Tricks to keep your meetings on track
Joe Burroughs

Joe Burroughs

Many people are frustrated by uncertainty and complexity in their jobs. I use Agile principles to provide clear and simple strategies so that you can win at work!

We have all been there

Everyone has been in a meeting that completely went off the rails. In fact it is likely you sat in one or more meetings in the past 2 weeks. It is bad enough to sit through such a meeting, but imagine the horror of watching in slow motion as a meeting you are hosting turns into a train wreck you can’t prevent.

There are any number of ways this can happen but some of my favorite examples are:

  • The topic changed so many times nobody can keep up
  • Social chit chat at the start of the meeting simply never ended and the meeting was rescheduled
  • The discussion somehow devolved into a series of personal attacks
  • Participants took over the meeting to share an unrelated subject
  • Technology challenges keep the presentation from working and attendees begin to lose interest
  • Someone has an open line with distracting background noise that never ends
  • The purpose of the meeting turns out to be developing a topic for the next meeting
  • No agreement can be reached on the topic and the conversation becomes circular
  • Required participants don’t attend or show up late so the meeting has to be rescheduled
  • A joke or funny side conversation becomes the focus of the rest of the meeting
  • Attendees have so many basic questions regarding the topic that the meeting can’t move forward
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Tips for Agile Teams Working Remotely

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The "Train-Wreck" meeting is a nightmare

It wastes the time of every participant as well as the host, but only the host walks away with the extra stigma of not being able to run and control an effective meeting. This is a key skill for most leadership roles and demonstrating you can lead a well run and valuable meeting makes you more likely to be considered for a leadership role.

After all, it is called “Leading” a meeting for a reason. Your job as a meeting organizer is to shepherd the participants toward a desired outcome. That outcome could come in many forms but in the most basic sense almost every meeting has one of these core purposes:

  • To Inform
  • To Persuade
  • To Decide
  • To Generate Ideas
  • To Demonstrate

Your meetings should only have 1 goal

Every time you set up a new meeting you must ask yourself, “What is the goal of this meeting?” Is it to inform, persuade, decide, generate ideas, or to demonstrate. Once you know the singular point of the meeting it is FAR EASIER to keep your meeting on track! You communicate the purpose of the meeting in the invite and then you can pull people back and get them to focus by reminding them of the meeting goal. This by itself helps prevent meetings from going off the rails. However, the point of this article is to give you some tips on how to handle a meeting that has already begun to accelerate into a head on collision. So let’s look at those 7 tricks to keep your meetings on track. 

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7 Tricks to keep your meetings on track

These tricks will help you ensure your meetings stay on the rails and if things begin to head in a direction you don’t like, they will help you steer the meeting back onto the tracks.

  1. Send out an agenda ahead of time with the 1 meeting goal at the top of the page. Remind everyone of that singular goal anytime they begin to stray off course.
  2. A bit of conversation at the start of each meeting is nice but you can focus the group after a few minutes by reminding them that you have a set time box and that you want to be respectful by ending on time. Then restate the meeting goal and introduce the first meeting topic.
  3. If a disagreement or argument begins to develop, simply interrupT the dispute and say something like, “You both make valid points here. I think we need to discuss this part offline and evaluate both directions. Let’s focus on what we can accomplish in the remaining time and parking lot this discussion for later.”
  4. Send out any presentations or visuals prior to the meeting so that if there are any technology issues all the participants can follow along on their own and you can run the meeting with audio only. 
  5. Familiarize yourself with the technology you will be using to host the meeting especially the controls to admit, mute, and unmute participants. A bit of preparation here can save the day!
  6. If an agreement can’t be reached or needed participants do not join the meeting, get as much as you can accomplished and set it up so that the final decision can be made via email rather than a follow up meeting.
  7. Set simple ground rules for every meeting that cover how you expect participants to contribute or participate. Share those along with the agenda and remind everyone of these at the beginning of the meeting.

Now that you have a simple guide covering how to keep your meetings on track you can feel more confident that you will be able to lead and manage meetings and make a great impression as a leader.

Please share your thoughts and your top meeting tips in the comments below!


Joe Burroughs

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