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To keep meetings moving smoothly and on time, it's very important that we keep the meeting on topic. Keeping the meeting on topic is not just the meeting leader's responsibility; it's every attendee's responsibility. However, the leader is the one who will most likely need to make small corrections if people get off course. It's natural that occasionally a meeting will drift off topic or off course. When that happens, just follow a few simple tips to bring things back on topic.
The first tip is that if someone gets off topic or is disruptive, avoid singling them out by name. Instead, direct your comments to the group as a whole. For instance, if someone starts to talk while it's another attendee's turn to speak, simply say, "let's all give Jonathan our full attention." Or if someone multitasks during the discussion, say, "let's all make sure we're not multitasking." A simple reminder to the group as a whole is usually enough, especially if you have established ground rules.
This leads me to my second suggestion: refer to the ground rules often. If an attendee does something that's keeping the meeting from being productive, again rather than singling them out or talking about their specific behavior, go back to the ground rules. For instance, if you feel that someone is holding back, you can refer to the ground rule by saying, "we've all agreed to be open and share our thoughts fully. Let's all speak candidly." And finally, to keep the meeting productive, use a timer rather than yourself to do the reminding.
Get a simple kitchen timer with a loud alarm. A loud alarm makes it easier for the timer to be the enforcer of the time budget, not the leader. If the timer buzzes and you're still speaking when your time is up, just quickly finish your sentence and then say "I'm done for now," and allow someone else to start speaking. If you're the leader and someone continues past the buzzer, just say "let's make sure that we give the next person their full time." Hopefully, everyone understands the ground rules and they'll be respectful of the time and they'll keep the meeting moving forward and productive.
Occasionally though, the leader will need to provide gentle reminders to keep everyone on track.
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