People are often on their best behaviour in virtual meetings – at least when it comes to paying attention. Why? Everyone can see them. It’s not really an option to shift eyes to look at another screen or sneak a peek at one’s text messages. When everyone is facing each other on their individual screens, the collective eyes of the virtual meetings room are on everyone equally. While we are all often tempted to zone out during a meeting or prone to distractions during meetings, we also don’t want to get caught doing it.

Curbing the urge to be elsewhere is one advantage that virtual meetings have over face-to-face meetings. But the dynamics of a room full of people, often with very different personalities and communication styles, can be complicated. Interruptions, arguments, lack of participation, and conversations that go nowhere can set back a meeting as much as meeting members who simply aren’t paying attention. The offenders – the prototypes of bad meeting participants – tend to have clearly discernable characteristics. Learn to identify the types of behaviours of these six Meeting Menaces and what to do about them before they derail your next videoconference.


The Suck-Up

The offense: Everyone wants the boss or meeting leader to think highly of them. That doesn’t mean they always have to be in agreement. The Suck-Up is more interested in getting approval than the meeting itself. This is usually toward with people in authority but could be any person for their own reasons. As they’re not thinking for themselves or contributing unique content to the meeting, the Suck-Up becomes dead weight (and annoys everyone to boot).

How to combat it: If it’s you they’re targeting, disengage with the culprit – they will likely get the hint. Break eye contact with them for a while and focus on other participants. If it’s obvious they’re sucking up to another person, find a way to redirect the conversation so they have to give their own opinion. Flat-out ask them what they think – make them take responsibility for contributing to the meeting.


The Fighter

The offense: There’s no need to get defensive about business – it’s not personal. The problem with the Fighter is that they make everything personal. The m.o. of the Fighter is to launch personal attacks on others when they are in disagreement. Instead of acting rationally, they start calling names and expanding the disagreement beyond its scope.

How to combat it: Call them out on it – but gently. You don’t want the situation to escalate. Ask them what’s going on and as quickly as possible, bring the focus back on the purpose of the meeting. Explain that your time for working on the task at hand is limited, and that if they need to work out personal difference, that should be left for after the meeting.


The Loudmouth

The offense: It’s great when people speak up in a meeting – without some initiative, it would be hard to have a meeting at all. But the Loudmouth takes more than his or her fair share of floor time. They talk too much, talk loudly, and often talk over other people. It’s hard to get them to shut up. This person is often the decision-maker at the meeting; their incessant talking expresses their large stake in the outcome.

How to combat it: Facilitate the dialogue of the meeting as best you can by calling on others to speak. If the Loudmouth’s gabbing is a long-term habit, you will need to talk to them outside of the meeting about giving others a chance to chime in. The Loudmouth might need something to keep them occupied when it’s not their turn to speak. Have them be the note-taker at the meeting to keep a record of what the group has decided.


The Quiet One

The offense: While the Quiet One is present, and may seem to be paying attention, they aren’t participating in the discussion. You might get an occasional head nod, or facial expression indicating assent or dissent. However, getting them to put in their two cents is like pulling teeth.

How to combat it: Take note if people are quiet and ask them to chime in with their opinion. Go around the room when having a discussion to ensure that everyone has the (enforced) opportunity to say their piece. Getting them to say something doesn’t have to be direct – make eye contact with them so they know you notice them, and they may be moved to speak. Avoid the urge to draw attention to their silence (“Why so quiet, Jennifer?”); just subtly and casually try to nudge a sentence or two out of them.


The Time Traveler

The offense: The Time Traveler lives in their own time zone. This person drains energy from the meeting by either continuously arriving late to the meeting or leaving early. The success of a meeting depends on full engagement from all participants. When someone arrives late, it kills the buzz people have going at the start of a meeting when they’re ready to spring into action. Similarly, when someone leaves early, the rest of the room starts to think about when they get to leave, too.

How to combat it: Before the meetings starts, ask everyone if they can stay until the end, so no one leaves unexpectedly. If everyone commits to staying, then someone who might have left early will be less tempted to do so. If someone needs to leave, agree on whether you’ll keep the meeting going or come to a stop at that time. Problem could very well be your meeting – consider whether your meeting where someone left early was too long or too poorly structured.

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Posted by Agnes Jozwiak

Agnes is the Brand & Communication Director at ClickMeeting.

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