How To Hijack Someone Else's Meeting

Sales pros spend vast effort honing their meeting chops for sales pitches, but what about all those other meetings -- especially the ones inside your own firm? Wouldn't it be great if you could twist those meetings into something useful -- rather than just a waste of your valuable time? Never fear, it's pretty easy to hijack a meeting and make it go wherever you think is useful. Here's exactly how it's done:
  • STEP #1: Decide if you want to hijack that particular meeting. Compare your goals to the stated purpose of the meeting. Can you bend it to serve? If not, you might as well bail out, 'cause it's a waste of time. Otherwise, it's hijack time...
  • STEP #2: If there is no agenda, offer to write one. "Help" the meeting holder by writing up an agenda that hits the holder's points, but has places for you to work your issues. That feel too baldfaced? Then make some "suggestions" with neutral-sounding placeholders where you can segue into your own issues.
  • STEP #3: Provide a list of people who should also attend. The more allies you have in the meeting, the easier it will be to take it in the direction that you want. Have a plausible reason on hand why they should attended -- other than the fact that they'll back you up on the hijack.
  • STEP #4: Pre-frame the meeting with key attendees. Call key attendees (and not just the ones you invited) and lay the groundwork for discussing the issues you care about. Make sure that you state your issues within the context of the declared reason for the meeting.
  • STEP #5: Volunteer to be the official recorder. If you're the one who's taking notes, you are the one who defines what happened. Memory is shifting sand; the written word is solid rock. If there's already somebody taking notes, take your own notes anyway.
  • STEP #6: Send an immediate follow-up email. Frame the meeting so that it serves your goals by being the first to publicly define what happened and what was decided. Unless your memo says the exactly opposite of what happened, most people will think that you've described the meeting accurately.
Here's an example:

The marketing team invites you to a meeting to discuss the text of their latest brochure. Your first impulse is to blow the meeting off as a waste of time. However, it's politically valuable for you to look like you're cooperating with marketing, so you decide instead to hijack the meeting to work on something more useful.

The issue you decide to work is getting the marketing group to go attend sales training so that they can better hone their lead generation efforts. So you get "potential customer impact" added to the agenda. Then you make sure that the meeting list has some attendees on whom you can count.

Prior to the meeting, privately brief your allies on what you'd like to accomplish. Get their agreement that this is a good idea. Touch bases with the other players who are supposed to attend. Within the context of the meeting's stated purpose, plant some seeds. (E.g. "As we look at the brochure copy, it might be a good idea to see how well it fits with our sales training methods. Otherwise, we might be selling at cross-purposes.")

When the meeting starts, volunteer to be the official recorder. When the meeting reaches the "potential customer impact" item of the agenda, bring up the issue of having the marketing personnel take the sales training course. (E.g. "This brochure is pretty good, but I think it would be easier for marketing to write 'on-target' if they understood our sales process. How about making sure that everyone in marketing attends the next sales training seminar?")

Your allies, of course, chime in and back you up.

As soon as the meeting is over, you send off a "this is what happened" email which documents whatever nonsense happened about the brochure, but emphasizes the "decision" that was made about sales training. Even if there was dissent, your memo should say something like "a robust discussion took place, but the general consensus was that the idea had merit." Make sure your memo also contains the "next step" that need to happen to achieve your goal.

That's how it's done. I've seen cases where this technique steamrolls over the poor sap who called the meeting. Sometimes they don't know what hit them and think that they owe the hijacker a favor because he "helped out".

BTW, if you don't want your own meetings to be hijacked, write your own agenda, control the list of attendees, line up your "ducks", record your own notes and be the first to issue to the meeting report. If you're not doing this, I'll bet every meeting you've ever called has been hijacked, probably without you even realizing that it happened!

READERS: Any other political tricks you'd like to share?