1. Know the objectives of the meeting and clearly state them.
2. Establish a Pre-Frame for on-topic discussion.
Before you begin, remind the attendees that you will keeping the meeting on task and re-directing to keep people on topic and keep the meeting on time.
Examples: “Before we begin, I remind you that we have a lot to cover today in our 30 minutes. It's important that we stay on topic to accomplish everything in our given time frame. If I see that we’re moving off-topic from our objectives for this meeting, I’m asking your permission stop and get us back on topic. Does that work for you?”
"We have 3 items on our agenda and 1 hour for this meeting. I will be re-directing us if we lose our focus and I'm asking for your understanding. If there are additional issues, let's make a note of them and put them on the agenda for another time. Do we all agree?"
3. Re-direct others when they stray from the objectives.
Timing is important. People need to speak so they feel heard and so room for creative contributions is allowed, but too much off-task conversation will derail your meeting. Find a balance by allowing people to contribute, but stopping off-topic discussion.
To re-direct others, first you must interrupt the discussion (it is not necessary to interrupt an individual while speaking). Next, explain that you are re-directing to return to the topic. Lastly, provide information to on next steps for the off-topic discussion (for example, noting when it will be dealt with and by whom).
4. Use strategic re-direct language.
Depending on the situation, you can finesse the 3 steps of re-directing by using different language. If you are leading the meeting and wish to be very direct, you can simply state what you are doing and move forward. If you need a gentler approach because you are not leading the meeting or may face a negative reaction, you can frame your re-direct as a suggestion rather than a command.
Examples: Direct: “I'm going to stop us here because we've gotten off-topic. We are discussing the second agenda item. I'll make a note that we need to make time to discuss this additional topic, and we can do so at our next meeting."
Less Direct: “I'd like to bring us back to our agenda. Why don't we have our secretary make a note in the minutes to add this question to the agenda for next week. I suggest we move on to our 3rd item for today, since we have only 15 minutes left and we'll need that time to get through the rest of our agenda."
By taking these steps to keep your meeting on task, you will be more effective in getting through your agenda on time.