It is very easy for meetings to get hijacked. All you need is for one person to go off on a tangent. Try as you might, many people don’t take well to hints. Also – what do you do when it’s the boss who is wasting valuable time? Usually, bosses have egos the size of New Jersey, so trying to get them back on course isn’t much of an option. But there is hope! It’s called an Agenda!
You may have heard of agendas — they are those marvelous little things that can do a lot to keep meetings on course. Below are some effective ways to use them.
1. Send the agenda out in plenty of time, preferably at least a week. Tell everyone what the meeting is about. This gives participants time enough to research and prepare.
2. Be specific. List precise points like a project log. One trick I like to use is to put names to each point. This lets everyone know what is expected ahead of time. For really important points, send a message to key people separately and ask them if they need help gathering information for the meeting.
3. Send out reminders the day before the meeting and attach the agenda. Some people get really busy, if you know what I mean – and may forget that there is a meeting, much less an agenda.
4. Stick to the agenda by having someone officiate the meeting. This can be done informally, but it’s a necessary evil to stay on track.
5. Keep time. Be reasonable, but guesstimate how long each point should take. If someone goes off on a tangent, politely remind them that there is limited time and say you’ll put that point on the next agenda or have a separate meeting to address it. That usually does the trick.
6. Take notes to distribute later. Use the notes as part of a working plan for future action and meetings.
Those are some of the ways that I use to stay on track and keep Mr. Tangent at bay.