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Using jellyfish to help keep our meetings on-track

How can we keep the meeting we’re facilitating on-track when everyone keeps going off-track? This is a common problem with both physical and online meetings, and can really derail your progress. 

In this episode we’re going to talk about jellyfish, those floating blobs of jelly in the ocean, and show you how you can use them to help keep your meeting focused and have some fun too!

We all know how some meetings go… we’re supposed to be talking about topic A, but then someone says topic B is related and starts going off on a tangent. Then someone else jumps to topic C, as in their mind at least, it’s related to topic A or B. It all kinds of makes sense as we make tiny jumps from one topic to another. But soon we find ourselves in the middle of nowhere, wondering why we were talking about topic Z! 

Sometimes it’s difficult for participants to pipe up and draw attention to the fact that the meeting has drifted off topic, just like those jellyfish drifting in the ocean currents. Here’s a great idea that was published in the Harvard Business Review back in 2016, but hasn’t really caught on yet. 

We’re hoping to change that, as we think using a word like ‘jellyfish’ to alert the group that we’re potentially drifting away from the topic sounds both effective and fun. 

The HBR article suggests a few ways we can use jellyfish in our meeting vocabulary. We could simply say ‘jellyfish’ or ‘I think we’re having a jellyfish moment’ or ‘Gee, did I just see a jellyfish float by?’ It’s a polite, but fun way, to say ‘Are we really on topic?’.  

While initially designed for physical events, we reckon this is a great concept for online meetings, as it’s sometimes more difficult to politely interrupt an online rant as it is in a physical room where we can use our body language to get the attention of the group. 

To ensure we can use jellyfish, we would need to add this into the ground rules or ‘how are we going to work together’ discussion at the start of our event – so that everyone realises why you might be talking about jellyfish!

But let’s give this a try and start using jellyfish to help keep our meetings on-track!

Well, you’ve heard our thoughts, now we’d like to hear yours! Add a comment below the blog post and tell us about your experiences with keeping meetings on-track, including any tips and further ideas. We don’t want this to be just a one-way conversationjoin in by sharing your thoughts and ideas with us! 

Thanks folks for joining us on this Enablers of change episode. Remember to subscribe to our newsletter if you’d like to know when new episodes are available. And if you liked what you heard, please tell your friends so they too can join the conversation!

All the best until we meet again!


Frisch, B. & Greene, C. (2016) The right way to cut people off in meetings. Harvard Business Review. Available online.

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Les Robinson
Les Robinson
3 years ago

Hey ‘jellyfish’ is a brilliant idea – simple and fun. I’ll try it out…might have to borrow it! Hope you’re well. – Les

3 years ago

how would you make sure this is not patronising. A person might think they are making a great point and then you “jellyfish” them – i think i would have to ask permission to use this approach at the beginning of the meeting and when any newcomers walk in, so that the group is on the same page

Graham Harris
Graham Harris
3 years ago

An interesting idea – thanks for sharing. As you point this needs to be agreed at the start of the meeting when developing the groundrules.

1 year ago

your article is good

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