Web Team Meetings Part 3: Dealing with HIPPOs

Hippopotamus in water

In two previous articles I discussed web meetings and who to invite, and what to do. However one touchy subject not yet covered is that of a HIPPOs or Highest Paid Person’s Opinion. Even though pay may not be involved, you may have HIPPOs in your church; be it someone on a committee, or even your pastor. Although their ideas are often good, you do not want to limit yourselves to that one influential person. I will describe some ways to solicit conversation from some of your mild mannered members, as well as ways to even the playing field so all ideas get a fair consideration.

Someone must lead your web team meetings. They may be the web team leader, a project manager, a director, or your pastor. However it does not make them royalty. Everyone on your team has ideas and perspectives that should be considered when discussing ideas. Because of a dominant personality in the room, or simply because of their own mild personality, some people may never speak up during meetings.


Some people just have “Type A” personalities and their domineering actions may be completely unintentional. Talk to them about toning down their aggressiveness, allowing others to talk first, even going so far as to not talk at all on certain subjects. Also, your more mild-mannered members may require some encouragement. Tell them that their ideas and opinions are valued and that you think they have a lot to contribute; otherwise, why would they be on the committee?

Speech Key

Bring an item to the meeting that is soft, light, and easily passed between people; such as a tennis ball. This person holding this item will be the only one who can speak, no exceptions. As the conversation moves around the table, the item will be passed to the next person in line to talk. If there are “item hogs”, you can of course impose time limits.

Secret Ballot

Conduct a brainstorming session where the various members submit each of their ideas via secret ballot. This can be done during the meeting or ahead of time via E-mail. A neutral party can list the ideas and the team agrees to spend a set amount of time on each item. This should allow ideas from all personalities to be seen and heard.

Tie Back

When an idea is proposed, discuss how it ties back to your church’s business goals. If a particular feature or design decision cannot do this, then it should not be considered. Otherwise it adds unnecessary weight to the project and slows down the items that will add real value. However, do not completely discard those unwanted ideas. They may prove useful in the future if goals and priorities change.

These may seem restrictive, or even something an elementary school teacher would employ to control a class. Yet this is a setting where someone’s passion for a cause, the church, or the web, can elicit strong reactions. People who drive cars do not assume they are mechanics and engineers. But as I mentioned before, it would seem that many people feel that because they use websites, they feel they can design them. Combine that passion with the assumed knowledge and you get a lot of circular discussions, and people that are afraid to toss their ideas into the mix.

Action Item

Use any combination of these techniques to guide the discussion toward a productive outcome. Keep trying since every situation is different. Also, if you have any techniques that have worked for you in the past, please leave a comment and share them.

Photo courtesy of Zett Media

Author: Stephen Morrissey

I have been making websites since 1996, and using social media since 2006. My current profession is designing user experiences for corporate software, websites, and mobile applications. I started sharing my knowledge with the world in 2011, about a year after a revival in my faith.

One thought on “Web Team Meetings Part 3: Dealing with HIPPOs”

  1. I never put a name with those kind of people (HIPPOs) but you have hit the nail on the head. Your tips on how to handle the meetings that would allow ‘everyone’ to participate are diplomatic and some I did not consider. Thank you for the “eye opener” and I look forward to trying them.

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