The Bad Meeting Inside The Meeting


No-Frills Calendar

How Things Can Go Very Wrong.

Contributor: Jim Kearney 5/13/2018

So you're running a staff meeting. Half way through your opening remarks an attendee brings up an off topic subject. The member has taken up a few minutes and it looks like there is a real danger of a lot more time being lost. But you want to be respectful and not start the meeting on a negative note. So you decide to let it go on a little while longer.

Just as you are ready to thank the off topic member and push on towards to real topic of the meeting a second person chimes in agreeing with the off topic member. Then a third and you have now lost complete control of the meeting!

The following tip may help to avoid this scenario.

Don't have a meeting!

That should be your first instinct if the only reason for the meeting is to impart information.

Go another way...

  • Write and distribute a memo.
  • Hold a conference call.
  • Send an E-mal
  • Hold a training / presentation. This would be for things like changes in the organization or for more than average complex information. This usually requires handouts and/or power point visuals.

Have a meeting only if, as a result, actions will be taken to advance a project(s) or a goal(s) by the participants.

The Agenda: Every business training program or book talks about the importance of having an agenda for all meetings.

My experience has been that the best meetings I have attended had a written agenda distributed prior to the meeting.

  • It allowed everyone to come prepared to engage in the topics to be discussed.
  • It gave the leader something to point to that helped keep the meeting on topic and moving along within the scheduled time.
  • It helps those at the meeting to stay focused.
  • Everyone knows where they are at any point. Without an agenda time slows down., "where is the end?", With an agenda people tend to relax. Each item on the agenda gets checked off as it is closed. They know where they are at all times.
  • Have the meeting start and end time listed on the agenda. Then start on time. Do not wait for anyone! That message will get out.

The Parking Lot: In the best of meetings some topics tangential to the meeting subject may come up. Don't discourage that. I've always liked using the Parking Lot. It's a place where all topics go when more time is needed but not available in the current meeting. A white board can be used and referred to later if time allows.

How to handle Parking Lot topics:

  • Welcome the thought! You never know what can come out of an idea or topic.
  • Explain that because it is not on the agenda it will be placed in the Parking Lot and acted upon if there is time or it will be addressed later. But it will be addressed!
  • Any item that goes into the parking lot must be handled. Empty the Parking Lot.
    • Act on it. decide if it's useful to explore further or dismiss
    • If you dismiss the item meet with the person(s) involved and explain why. Thank and encourage them to continue to speak up when they have an idea.

Take notes / minutes for distribution: Preferably as people leave the meeting. It helps to eliminate this...

"I thought we agreed Bob was going to handle that."

" I don't remember that being covered."

"Sorry, when did you want that report?"

All agreed upon actions i.e. who, what, when and all key points agreed upon need to get into the attendees' hands as soon as possible.


Follow Up with the individuals who have agreed to handle an action and check their progress.

  • Offer support.
  • Ask for their feedback.
  • Praise their good work.(Only if it is deserved)
  • Coach for needed improvement.
    (Make it positive and private.)

Edited - 5/16/2018


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