Beware These Meeting Killers

Beware These Meeting Killers

The purpose of meeting is to organize a group to gain efficiency within an organization or group. There are many different components to making each meeting obtain the efficiency desired. As the number of participants increases, the harder it is to stay on track. There are a number of personalities within a meeting that can take it off track.

The first step in being able to maintain order and keep the meeting working towards its goal is to understand the different personalities that can derail. With that information at hand, you can better cut off the bad behavior and drive towards getting the most out of your time together.

Here is a list of those meeting killers. Be on the lookout for them.

The Filibuster

This is one that will absolutely kill the productivity of everyone involved in a meeting. The Filibuster will talk and talk and talk and talk some more. Once they get the floor in the meeting, they keep the floor. One of the tenants to being a good meeting attender is to be concise in getting your point across. Unless you are giving an update and it is scheduled that you will have a chuck of time in the meeting to present, anytime you are asked your opinion on a matter it is a general goal to get your point across in under two minutes.

It goes without saying that taking more time than what is necessary will cause meetings to run long and keep those in attendance from moving on to more important things.

The Parrot

While the goal of the meeting is to have everyone get their points across in two minutes or under when it is their time to speak, that doesn’t mean that everyone should say something revolutionary when asked their opinion on a matter. There are many times when everything that has to be said about a topic will already have been covered by the time it makes it around the conference table. The Parrot feels like they have to contribute something meaningful every time they speak, so they simply take the great points other people have made and repeat the same points, but in their own words.

It is important to build a culture in your organization or to have the self-esteem to recognize there is no new value being created by simply stating other points more eloquently. If there is nothing new to be added simply call out the points you agree with and yield the floor. “I agree with Sally that we should do blah-de-blah and I also agree with Bob that we should do the other thing”. Simple. To the point. Move on to more important things.

The Multitasker

Most people that attend a lot of meetings during the day have many things going on. They are busy people that are distracted. The worst offenders of these are those that are required participants in a meeting that simply work on other things while they are in a meeting. They multitask.

The problem with multitasking is that the person is not paying attention to what is going on in the meeting. Whenever it comes to getting their input on something they must be brought up to speed as to what was happening just before they were asked the question. Obviously this is a waste of time. Good corporate meeting culture will not allow people to be distracted. If someone is not important enough to pay attention and contribute to the meeting, maybe the meeting should be paired down to include the necessary participants. Maybe the meeting should be split into two separate meetings. Either way, the meeting is not being completed in the shortest time possible, so it is not efficient.

The Ignorant Genius

Knowledge is power, as the saying goes. Too many buy into this. Just as Cersei Lannister said in Game of Thrones - knowledge is not power. Power is power. Because people believe they must look smart in front of their peers leads people to talk about things they do not understand. They know enough to be dangerous is the problem. The Ignorant Genius will answer every question they can that they have the information even if they don’t understand the full topic. They know just the tip of the iceberg of the topic where there are others in the meeting that can speak in depth to the topic. This doesn’t matter to the ignorant genius. They want to seem in-the-know, so they answer.

This may not seem like a meeting killer. It is. Especially if there is no one in the meeting that actually has depth in the topic and the ignorant genius continues to offer up information that could be incorrect to keep their front up. Believe it or not, this happens more times than you probably even realize.

The Derailer

The Derailer does just that, they derail the meeting. They take every topic of conversation down a rabbit hole. This happens a lot in technical meetings if you let it. Start talking about a topic in a meeting with a bunch of software engineers and if you don’t work to keep it on the agenda you will look up and be in the weeds talking about the best algorithm to use to solve the problem. They are engineers after all. They have been trained to solve problems. That is what they do. Left to their own devices, the Derailer will start talking implementation details whenever they can.

Recognize that this personality is in the meeting and simply ask to move on to the next agenda item and not get into implementation. Ask to not talk about some semi-related topic and move on. A good way to get around getting lost in topics that may very well be important to the organization to discuss, but not part of the goal of this meeting, is to keep a parking lot. A parking lot is a place to put things that should have their own meeting agenda item for a meeting in the future.

The Late-Arriver

Another part of corporate culture that should be established is that meetings begin on time and that people arrive on time. The Late Arriver is one that is chronically late to meetings. They stroll in 10 minutes late and at some point during the meeting they will ask questions that have already been covered in the time they missed. Obviously this is a waste of everyone’s time to have to re-hash materials that have already been covered.

If your company is one that has meetings all day, it is important to understand that people will need to travel between meeting locations and have some bio breaks during the day. If needed, start meetings 5 minutes after the top of the hour and stop them 5 minutes before. It is important that you build your agenda around what is reasonable and then hold people accountable to that schedule. It must be reasonable to expect people can achieve the schedule to hold them to it.

The Bad Communicator

With the global economy in full swing, more and more meeting participants are using technology to engage in meetings. Whether it is Webex or a conference phone line, more people are remote from the meeting location. The Bad Communicator is the person that has a bad cell phone connection, or a dog barking in the background as they work from home. They may be a soft-speaker that can hardly be heard. It may be someone that talks far away from the speaker or it could be a person that speaks a bunch of techno-babble in a meeting with a bunch of non-technical attendees.

The real issue here is to understand that with technology there are issues that come with it and make a concerted effort to overcome those while participating in a meeting. Speak loudly and clearly when talking to the group from afar. If you are a technical expert that is addressing an audience that is not at your proficiency level, make sure you are explaining the buzzwords you are throwing around. Speak to your audience.

Each of these personality types can be distractive to achieving a productive meeting. After all, the goal of every meeting should be as productive as it can be. That is the very essence of having a meeting in the first place- to organize a group to gain the greatest productivity the organization can.

One step towards this goal is to recognize these personality types that are meeting killers. By just understanding who they are and what they do will cause you to see when your meeting is about to get off track and make a course correction and keep your meeting productivity alive.

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