- Countless conference room characters can derail almost any gathering
- Don't be the meek moderator or the lunch break obliterator
- Rather than checking your smartphone, engage with others in your meeting
All meetings are good in theory. But as every worker knows, few live up to their potential: A leader who distributes a poorly crafted agenda, a colleague who dominates the conversation, a participant who struggles with the projector for 15 minutes while everyone else checks their watches. These and countless other conference room characters can derail almost any gathering.
Here are seven of the biggest meeting offenders, along with advice you can use to avoid becoming one yourself:
1) The meek moderator
This meeting "leader" has great difficulty sticking to the agenda or exerting any authority. He doesn't start until everyone has arrived, even those who are exceedingly late; fails to redirect the conversation when it goes astray; allows the most vocal participants to dominate the discussion; and never wraps things up so attendees can leave on time.
To avoid being a Meek Moderator, start promptly, and keep a close eye on the agenda and the clock. In a survey by Robert Half, managers said "not keeping to the schedule" is the biggest meeting pet peeve. Also, don't be shy about politely reining in ramblers or soliciting feedback from less-vocal attendees.
2) The meeting addict
The Meeting Addict is more comfortable talking about work than actually doing work. Blinded by her love of PowerPoint presentations, she assumes everyone shares her passion for powwows. She not only calls unnecessary meetings, but she also invites throngs of people, adding to the drain on time and resources.
Avoid becoming a Meeting Addict by remembering that many long-standing meetings outlive their original purpose. Periodically step back and ask yourself if a routine meeting truly needs to take place. In many cases you'll realize you can alter its frequency, prune the participant list or nix it altogether.
3) The idea killer
At a recent brainstorm, the boss reminds everyone to remain open to any and all ideas. As cool concepts are volleyed around, the room seems full of possibilities -- until the Idea Killer pipes up. This perpetual pessimist offers no ideas of his own but continually interrupts the conversation to explain why each proposed solution could never work.
Creative problem solvers who can communicate their innovative ideas are in demand; naysayers with poor people skills are not. If you're in a so-called "blue sky meeting," embrace the spirit of the brainstorming session and withhold judgment and harsh criticism.
4) The technology tinkerer
The Technology Tinkerer spends most of the meeting frantically fiddling with malfunctioning video and audio equipment. After an extended period of head scratching, he eventually throws up his hands in frustration and asks this futile question: "Um, anybody know how to work this thing?"
Don't follow in the Technology Tinkerer's footsteps. Conduct a trial run to avoid embarrassing technical difficulties when the spotlight's on. If you plan to use technical equipment in a meeting, arrive early to make sure you know how it works and that it's working properly.
5) The smartphone fiend
This gadget-dependent person, one of today's most frequently encountered meeting offenders, is both distracted and distracting. She's physically present but is so immersed in responding to email and surfing the Web that she has no clue what's being discussed.
It's easy to not be a Smartphone Fiend. Simply act engaged. Get into the habit of turning off your mobile device before meetings begin. If you're expecting an urgent call or message, set your phone to vibrate and be as discreet as possible. Why? Seventy-six percent of managers said poor technical etiquette can adversely affect a person's career, according to another Robert Half survey.
6) The lunch break obliterator
Looking forward to catching up with a friend for lunch? Hoping to use your break to run errands? Simply craving a tuna sandwich? Well, forget it. The Lunch Break Obliterator has other plans for you: eating up your hour with a meeting.
If you call a meeting, do your best to avoid scheduling it during lunchtime. If you must, be clear about why you're doing it and consider treating attendees to a snack or light meal.
7) The class clown
Is it a weekly staff meeting or open mic night at the local comedy club? It's hard to tell when this incorrigible comic is in the room. Regardless of the mood or topic, the Class Clown has no shortage of corny quips, puns and one-liners.
Avoid becoming the Class Clown by embracing moderation. A clever, well-timed joke can help you break the ice, build rapport or diffuse tension. But attempts at humor, particularly sarcasm, can backfire if you go overboard. Taking things too far is no laughing matter as it can cause others to question your professionalism. Instead of formulating your next knee-slapper, focus on contributing to the discussion.
If you think you fall into any of the above descriptions, don't worry. Recognizing inefficient or bothersome behavior is half the battle. It's in your control to quickly turn it around.