Meeting Hijackers & Hitchhikers:

Meetings have long been riddled with inefficiency and frustration. Whether they are in-person or virtual, there are many challenges. However, it is possible to have productive meetings that are highly collaborative and stay on track. Two ways of doing this are deterring the hijackers and picking up the hitchhikers.

What is a meeting hijacker? He/she is a person who dominates the conversation and often times causes the entire meeting to go off track. The person may be doing this with intent to consciously change the subject or agenda or perhaps is unaware his/her behavior is derailing the meeting. Either way, a hijackers changes the direction and flow of a meeting, causes frustration, and can even waste time. If a hijacker is present, there are some simple ways to get the meeting refocused.

  • Redirect: If there is an agenda, the meeting facilitator should interject by asking the person a question like: “how does this point help us reach the outcomes in our agenda?”
  • Acknowledge: If the redirection is unsuccessful, the facilitator can suggest putting the hijacker’s point aside for now and move back to the agenda. His/her points can and should be addressed, but later in the meeting or at a future time.
  • Use the Group: Encouraging others to speak more or direct questions can help guide the meeting back on track.

What is a meeting hitchhiker? He/she is someone who is willing to engage and add to the meeting instead of passively sitting through it. Encouraging hitchhikers to share can help the meeting flow better and produce better ideas and outcomes. There are some simple ways to encourage more hitchhiking behavior.

  • Prepare: When people come to a meeting knowing the topics and purpose, they are more willing and prepared to participate. 
  • Ask: If a meeting facilitator wants input from others, then ask for it. Asking questions directly to people create more opportunities for input. Direct questions at individuals, departments, or groups. When people feel like there is space and opportunity, they are much more willing to engage.
  • Encourage: Asking is a form of encouragement, but acknowledging input is just as important. The facilitator can acknowledge by asking the group to build on the input and ideas others share. An excellent way to do this is by asking a question like: “That’s a great point. What do the rest of you think? How can we add to this idea?”

When meeting hijackers and hitchhikers are discouraged and encouraged (respectively), meeting frustration will greatly reduce and productivity will rise. By understanding these behaviors and how to handle them, there will be a lot less “that meeting could have been an email” type of thinking.


For more Tidbits & Thoughts, please click here.