Don’t Be a Meeting Wanderer

Dan Ward by Dan Ward

If your meetings run long, if you leave without clear action items, or if you catch yourself or others daydreaming, you may be a Meeting Wanderer. I know the signs – because I am one.

One of the most important steps you can take in combating Meeting Wanderer Syndrome is to recognize the symptoms.

Here are the Top 6 ways to identify whether you are a Meeting Wanderer:

  1. Unprompted Storytelling – If in the first five minutes of a meeting you catch yourself recounting a story that most people in the room have already heard, you may be a Meeting Wanderer. It’s great that the issue you’re trying to tackle is similar to one you managed before email existed, but unless the strategy you employed then still works today, keep it to yourself.
  2. The Squirrel Pt. 1 – Meeting Wanderers can quickly knock an agenda off track by adding new agenda items as they spring to mind. Unless you have “new business” on the agenda, table those ideas for another discussion.
  3. The Squirrel Pt. 2 – This is a symptom only you can sense. It’s when you find yourself checking out of the discussion because you have other issues on your mind. Recognize this tendency and fight it when you can. If you’re not present in the meeting, you’re giving your teammates something less than 100 % effort.
  4. Candyland Agenda Management – A good agenda is organized by priority for a reason. The Meeting Wanderer takes two steps forward, and then drops 10 steps back after hitting Gumdrop Pass. Fight the urge to jump around.
  5. The Doodle Effect – If pens are being used to draw cartoon characters rather than take notes, chances are you or others are wandering. Get back on the agenda and do or say something to recapture the group’s attention.
  6. The Simon Garfunkel – If all you’re hearing from your teammates or clients is the Sound of Silence, you’ve wandered off the path. Ask questions and call on individuals to reengage them.

If you regularly experience three or more of these symptoms, chances are you are a Meeting Wanderer. The good news is you’ve now taken the first step to recovery. Recognize the symptoms and remain aware of their effects and you can get back to meetings that accomplish tasks and solve problems.

P.S. If you can think of other Meeting Wanderer symptoms, please let us know!

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