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How to Successfully Turn Around a Bad Meeting

28 February, 2018

While preparation is the key to having the most successful meetings, sometimes issues arise that can’t be foreseen. So, what to do when it feels that your meeting is running off the rails, becomes aimless, or is hijacked by a dominant participant? Deploy some of the following useful tactics to make sure you can turn it all around.

What to do when the meeting feels out of control

Perhaps your agenda turns out to be incomplete, or there are contingencies you just hadn’t planned for. Maybe you were optimistic about the length of time that would be designated for each presenter, or that issues would take less time to resolve. When it feels like your meeting is slipping away from your initial intentions or that you aren’t sticking to plan, there are a few things you can do to get it back on track.

  • Take a pause or a brief break - it could be that your attendees are tired or unfocused. If you give everyone a minute to get some air, or a cup of coffee and regroup, you can return to the meeting and restart in a better direction.
  • Give everyone an activity. It could be that people are feeling uninspired, or that everyone needs help getting on the same page. If that’s the case, then give attendees a quick brainstorming exercise, or even a brain teaser. It can jump start creative juices, or see the mindset that everyone is in, helping you to redirect the meeting.
  • Just end the meeting. There’s no shame in saying “this isn’t working right now”. It might be that the meeting is unfocused because participants are unprepared. Allow more time for people to get ready, and regroup either later in the day or the week. There’s no point in wasting people’s time if the meeting isn’t being productive.

What to do when the meeting becomes aimless

Most meetings are started with good intentions, but they don’t always follow through. When you feel that you’re losing sight of the purpose of the meeting, it can help to stick to theme.

  • Always revisit your agenda. This is the master for how your meeting should be run. When it seems like things are feeling pointless, you can make sure that by sticking to your agenda, you’ll at least accomplish what you set out to do.
  • Take a look back at your goals. Then whenever a point is brought up, or a new item is addressed, ask yourself and the group how it contributes to the overall purpose of the meeting. This can help you prioritize what you should be spending time on, or if there are things that can just be discussed in a different meeting.

Successful team meeting

What to do when your meeting gets hijacked

You might be one of the few lucky ones of the corporate world who have never been stuck in a meeting with someone who takes over meetings. If you aren’t however, there are a few ways to take back a meeting from someone who dominates the conversation.

  • Limit speaking and presenting time. By ensuring that participants must be concise, you might deter those who feel compelled to run off on a tangent for ten minutes.
  • Go back to the goals. As we mentioned previously, ask your team if the point brought up contributes to the overall purpose. Anyone who wants to talk just to hear their own voice will have no choice but to stick to what’s important.
  • Have a moderator. Someone who leads the meeting (and it might not be the one who planned it), can help to make sure that no one person is getting all the attention. A moderator can also help to diffuse tense situations, call on those who might otherwise be timid in meetings, and help others to stick to the agenda.

Meetings don’t just naturally go smoothly, and often practice with your team does make perfect. But once you know how to redirect a bad meeting, you’ll have far less of them.

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