Ever been in a meeting and wanted to tear your hair out as the group goes slowly off track getting further and further away from the agenda item they’re supposed to be discussing?
When this happens it creates two issues:
- the ticking clock doesn’t stop as the group stays longer on an item and there are still other items that need to be discussed
- should I minute this discussion?
The ticking clock
Ultimately it’s up to the chairman to keep an eye on time and steer the discussion to a conclusion. However, the chairman has a lot to do and this is where a good minute taker, where appropriate, can lend a hand.
Here are a number of helpful tips (use those that you feel comfortable with):
- This is the one that works the best. Ensure that you have a timeframe (eg 1/2 hour or 9.30-10.00 am) printed next to each agenda item as a guide as to how long should be spent on this item.
- Having done No. 1, at the meeting, ensure you are sitting next to the chairman. Then when too much time has been spent on an item you can subtly point with a pen to the next spot on the agenda as to where the group should be. I have done this a couple of times at meetings and have received a simple acknowledgement nod by the chairman to my desperate plea to wind up discussion.
- In informal meetings, I have sometimes said, “Where are we on the agenda?” I find that this stops the discussion, everyone looks at the agenda and then someone usually says, “Oh, yes, we have gone off track.”
- Do what you feel you can get away with (having a good relationship with the chairperson will be your guide here) – I’ve even passed notes to my chairman stating, “we need to move on”!
Should I minute the discussion?
Tricky one, this.
- If it’s mainly opinion I tend to leave it.
- If it’s worth noting, but the topic has drifted off the original agenda item (and an action point has arisen) I will record it under a separate heading.
- Failing that, use the capture-it-all phrase – “An extensive discussion took place.”
While it is the chairman’s job to manage the discussion and pull it back when it goes off track it sometimes requires someone else to take the lead – the minute taker!
Do you have any tips to share when the discussion goes off track at your meetings?