9 Major Killers of Efficient Meetings – Have You Fallen Victim to These?

Killer #1-The Silent Assassin

Harm Level: 💣💣💣💣

This is the person who attends the meeting but contributes nothing to the discussion.

You may have encountered this type before – they seem harmless, but they can actually do a lot of damage.

Firstly, you may wonder why this person bothered to attend the meeting if they’re not going to say anything. You might even consider it a waste of time to have them there.

Wait is meaningless and is a waste of the most organized resources. Firstly, we need to understand that the cost of organizing a meeting is high, and the cost of organizing a meeting with 5 people is definitely different from that of a meeting with 20 people. Secondly, if a person attends a meeting but doesn’t speak, it means that he/she has made no contribution to the meeting. In other words, whether he is there or not makes no difference to the meeting. So why should he attend the meeting? He should use this one or two hours of meeting time to do more important things like serving customers, doing business, and developing products. If this person spends this time not doing value-creating work but attending a meeting where his presence is optional, it can be very damaging to the organization.

The solution is simple. Firstly, invite participants to follow the principle of “you can come, but you don’t have to”. Use voice and screen sharing, or meeting minutes sharing, to keep colleagues informed of meeting information. Secondly, you need to be very clear about your own contribution to a meeting, as well as the contribution of each participant. Once you are unsure, ask immediately.

Killer #2-Cloud Over Head Style

Harm Level: 💣💣💣💣💣

The melancholic temperament infects the whole team, always worrying and hindering progress.

During meetings, no matter what suggestions or new ideas you propose, there’s always a group of people who habitually resist and express various concerns, negative emotions, and are particularly good at taking the opposite stance with anyone. For this situation , Huddles have a special feature which is called feedback section. This section gathers everyone’s opinions and ideas to see if everyone agrees or has any concerns.(which you can see in the picture below). I call them “cloud-over-head style” participants, who are also the type of participants who have caused me the most headaches. They have a very high harm index to the team, not only hindering the team’s bold innovation and rapid advancement, but also being the main cause of “fruitless meetings”. Teams easily get caught up in trying to address their endless worries, but their concerns never seem to end.

Here’s a tip for dealing with them: ask them to express their attitude first and then their opinions. When it comes to expressing their attitude, use “Do you disagree?” instead of “Do you agree?” The standard for “disagree” is that once the proposal is implemented, it will cause harm to the team’s interests and goals. If they object, we need to get them to specifically explain “what harm exactly will be caused?”. Of course, if there is indeed obvious harm and risk, we should thank the objectors and discuss together a better solution. At the same time, if there is no objection, but the solution is not perfect, my advice is to encourage the team to take the next step and to continuously iterate and improve along the way.

Killer #3-The Wanderer

Harm Level: 💣💣💣💣💣

This person always leads the team off-topic, and can lead them very far off-track.

A common and highly destructive invisible killer in inefficient meetings is the issue of digression. Have you ever had the experience of being in a meeting where everyone is discussing something, and suddenly someone says “Hey, what were we supposed to talk about again?” At that moment, the entire team realizes that they have been led astray by the Wanderer. You will find that this type of person has a magical charm that can always lead the team off-topic, and can lead them very far off-track. This is extremely harmful to the team. Firstly, it seriously wastes the time and energy of all team members, occupying meeting time, and most importantly, the original purpose of the meeting cannot be achieved.To prevent this, Huddles set an exact time for each question to remind it of how long it took.

Here’s a solution:

First, when we start the meeting, we need to focus on every agenda item and discuss what the purpose of the topic is. In other words, what we need to discuss in this meeting to achieve a conclusion. It is best to write down this purpose – write it down, write it down, and write it down!

Then we should encourage everyone to focus on the purpose of this agenda item and participate in the discussion. Once we realize that we are off-topic, we should remind each other immediately. If we find that the new topic is relevant and important, we should create a new agenda item, discuss the current agenda item until we get the desired outcome, and then move on to the next.

In summary, the fundamental principle of killing the Wanderer is to always keep the purpose of the agenda clear and only discuss one agenda item at a time.

Killer #4-The ping-pong player

Harm Level: 💣💣💣💣

No matter what responsibility or task is assigned to them, they always find a way to dodge it with excuses like “It’s not my responsibility” or “I’m not wrong, ask someone else.”

The essence of a meeting is for our team to sit down and discuss how we can collaborate better. However, when we discuss how to collaborate and assign tasks, there are always people who come out and say, “This isn’t my responsibility” or “I’m not wrong, find someone else to do it.” These people are long-term obstacles to smooth and efficient teamwork, and they consume the culture of team responsibility and mutual support.

The treatment plan is to stop talking to these ping-pong players and turn to the facilitator or leader. Ask to see the job responsibilities of team members and clarify who is responsible for a particular task. If it falls within the responsibility of the ping-pong player, they must take it on. If the team member’s responsibilities are unclear, invite the leader to clarify them and assign tasks.

In Huddles, you can use “Action Taking” to invite their tasks.

Your AI-powered meeting assistant – Huddles

Smarter agenda , valuable conclusions

Killer #5-The actor who always steals the show

Harm Level: 💣💣💣💣

Always interrupting, speaking out of turn, and trying to draw attention to themselves in meetings.

Don’t let a narcissistic chatterbox take control of a meeting! This type of participant always interrupts, speaks out of turn, loves to express themselves, and seeks attention wherever they can in meetings. Note that this type of participant is often recognized as a high-energy contributor to meetings because they can talk and prevent the conversation from slowing down. However, they often hinder smooth teamwork, frequently interrupting and breaking the rules. They may also infringe on the safety space of other students by taking up too much time talking and discouraging others from participating.

As a meeting facilitator, if I encounter an actor who always steals the show, I usually do the following:

  • First, remain vigilant and remind these participants to express themselves briefly and concisely. Let them know that if they can express their ideas in three sentences, there is no need to talk for twenty.
  • Second, if certain parts of the meeting require feedback and contributions from all participants, I will establish rules such as giving each person one minute to speak in turn to ensure that everyone has a chance to speak.

In any meeting, every person should be considered as the main character, not just the ones who steal the show.

Killer #6-Procrastinators

Harm Level: 💣💣💣💣

With that person around, it becomes a fantasy for the meeting to end on time. “Let me just add a couple more things,” and that’s twenty more minutes.

Many of my friends around me have told me that ending meetings on time is a luxury. In other words, dragging meetings is commonplace. Of course, there are many factors that contribute to meeting delays, one of which is the “procrastinator”. Their typical action is to wait until the meeting is about to end and then say, (often leaders) “let me add a few more points”, which will result in an additional 20 minutes, or even a new topic.

To deal with procrastinators, there are two tips:

  1. Use the 100-second rule. The speaker’s speech must not exceed 100 seconds when the meeting is about to end. As the moderator, you should strictly uphold this rule.
  2. Create a clear signal for the whole team that meetings need to end as close to the scheduled time as possible, instead of just allowing them to drag on. Once everyone in the team is aware of this, they will start pressuring the procrastinators not to waste everyone’s time.

In short, I want to cherish my own time and respect your time as well. Do you get me?

Killer #7-The PPT King

Harm Level: 💣💣💣

To spend two days preparing a PowerPoint for a two-hour meeting is putting form over function.

The PPT King is more concerned with form than substance. They can spend two days on a two-hour presentation just to ensure it’s visually perfect. The ultimate goal of a meeting should be to solve problems, not just to discuss them orally. In this digital age, it’s easy to use asynchronous methods to solve this issue. You can send out documents or videos ahead of time, and people can prepare their questions and feedback before the meeting. Make sure everyone reads the content before the meeting and participates fully during the meeting.

The method to improve meeting efficiency is simple: share your presentation or introduction with everyone in advance in the form of a document or video. Ensure that all attendees have read it and come prepared with questions and feedback. Another effective method is the Amazon reading meeting – where 10 minutes before the meeting, everyone silently reads the material and makes notes. I will share in detail how to conduct an Amazon silent reading meeting in the future. Let’s not have meetings where we simply rotate through PPT presentations – that’s really outdated.

Killer #8-The Two-faced Attendee

Harm Level: 💣💣💣

Be vague during the meeting, won’t take responsibility after the meeting.

Have you ever experienced a situation in a meeting where everyone seemed to be in agreement on a certain issue, but afterwards, when someone had to follow up on it, someone else changed their mind and said they never agreed to it in the first place? It can be really awkward and frustrating, right?

I recently witnessed something like this at a meeting I attended. A suggested that we should use electronic contracts and signatures instead of having to rely on paper contracts and courier services due to COVID-19 restrictions. B, a salesperson, responded with “let’s give it a try”. A interpreted this as agreement and started to push forward with the proposal. However, when B was asked to implement the change with their clients, B refused and explained that their response was simply a suggestion to try it out and not an agreement to support the proposal.

To avoid these kinds of misunderstandings and inefficiencies, I recommend two things:

Firstly, clearly communicate your opinions and thoughts on the matter. Use standard phrases such as “I support it”, “I agree”, “I disagree”, or “I have concerns”. The team can adopt this default communication mode.

Secondly, record the meeting minutes and the outcome of the meeting’s discussions. This should be a shared document, preferably in the cloud or using a good online tool like Huddles.app. This is proof of the meeting’s outcome and everyone can refer to it.

Let’s save the face-changing for Sichuan Opera performances and avoid it in our meetings.

Killer #9-The Multi-tasker

Harm Level: 💣💣💣

During the meeting, they were being vague and non-committal. But once the meeting was over, they refused to take any responsibility. They treated the meeting just as a formality and didn’t care about wasting other people’s time.

One of the most awkward situations for me in online meetings is when a question is asked and there is complete silence from everyone. I can’t tell if people don’t have an answer or if they simply can’t keep up with my pace. The same happens during offline meetings where most people bring their laptops, and when the speaker is presenting, everyone looks at their screens, making it impossible to tell if they’re actually paying attention or working on something else.

Therefore, nowadays I believe that the biggest threat to meeting efficiency is the presence of attendees who are not fully focused on the meeting and are “multi-tasking” with other things. If there are several of these individuals in a meeting, it can easily bring down the energy of the entire group, and when collective action is needed, we may have to wait for responses or receive no response at all.

So, what can we do? Here are two tips that I want to share with you:

First, we must acknowledge that modern city dwellers have fast-paced lives and can easily become distracted. As such, it is critical that we set a fast and efficient pace for meetings and keep everyone highly focused throughout the meeting to minimize any downtime.

Secondly, we can incorporate more games or interactive elements into the meetings, like having everyone use emojis to express their current state or requiring each person to write down their response when a question is asked, and continuously “calling out” anyone who hasn’t written anything.

Overall, I hope that in the future, none of these 9 efficiency killers for meetings are present.


Author:Fiona Berton

Meeting Effectiveness Expert

Deeply accompanying the organizational evolution of agile transformation in enterprises.

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