When you’re in charge of a meeting, whether it’s a county Farm Bureau board of directors meeting, standing committee, or special ad hoc committee, it’s your job to keep the meeting moving along.

“Lasts too long” is the biggest complaint people have about meetings.  Sometimes it’s the people who are participating (or not participating) that bog things down.

There are several personality types that can keep a meeting from accomplishing its goals.  See if you recognize any and check out the suggestions for dealing with them.

  • The Griper has a pet peeve they want the group to know about. Even if they have a legitimate point, point out that policy can’t be changed in the meeting and the objective is to operate as best as you can under the current system. Offer to discuss the problem later, or in a private one-on-one.
  • Highly Argumentative—always or occasionally.  Keep your own temper firmly in check, and don’t let other meeting participants get excited. Try to find honest merit in one of their points, express your agreement, and then move on. If they make an obvious misstatement, correct the misstatement. If needed, speak with them privately.
  • Inarticulate—a person with good ideas who can’t express them well. Don’t jump in and say, “What you mean is . . .” Instead say, “Let me repeat that,” and put the thought into better language.
  • Off the Subject—not rambling, just off base. Restate the point and get back to business.
  • The Rambler—gets, off the subject and uses lots of time doing it. When they pause for breath, express thanks for the thoughts and then refocus everyone’s attention by restating the relevant points and move on.
  • Overly Talkative--may be exceptionally well-informed on an issue, a show-off or just naturally wordy. Respond with, “That’s an interesting point, let’s get some thoughts from the group.”
  • Personality Clashers—two or more members who clash, sometimes dividing the group into factions. Emphasize points of agreement, minimize points of disagreement. Draw attention to the objectives of the meeting. Ask direct questions related to the topic. Bring an objective member into the discussion. Ask that personalities not be brought into the subject at hand.
  • The Quick Helper—they’re trying to help but may be participating so much that others can’t. Tactfully suggest the need for putting others to work. Use your quick helper to summarize the points of the discussion.
  • Silent Sam/Samantha—someone who just won’t talk. People remain quiet for many different reasons—boredom, indifference, timidity, conceit, or insecurity. Your approach depends on what you think is motivating their silence. Try asking them a direct question. If the person seems too shy, ask a question of the person next to them and then ask them to comment on their neighbor’s response. They may be more willing to speak in small groups. Compliment the timid individual for contributing.
  • The Subborn Stickler—someone who won’t change their mind, won’t see your points. Present this person’s views to the group and have the group react/vote. Offer to discuss points of contention later but ask the individual to accept the group’s viewpoint for the moment.
  • Side Talkers—people holding their own conversations which may or may not be related to the topic. Don’t embarrass them. Call one of them by name and ask an easy question or restate the last remark made by a member of the group and ask for an opinion of it.

Did you recognize any of these personality types, or perhaps you’ve seen one in the mirror? People don’t bring only their best qualities to a meeting, so it’s up to the chair to be sure the groups lesser traits don’t get in the way of accomplishing the purposes of the meeting in a timely manner.