When someone says hijacking a meeting, it usually means that someone has made the meeting all about his/her agenda.

One time, I was invited to a meeting to talk about "ABC", but they only discussed ABC for the first 5 minutes, then they all switched to talking about something else. I was told we will discuss "ABC" which I prepared before I met with them, but from the start it appeared that they had no intention of talking about that. I also realized that the original agenda wasn't not what they were interested in discussing, so I guess word I am looking for is that I got bamboozled in the meeting or something?

I would always describe that to my boss/peers as "I got sideswiped in the meeting". I googled, and it's not used that way, so I guess somehow I made up that term and everyone understood what I meant anyway. Is there a term for this experience?

  • 2
    "The meeting got hijacked" is to the point and describes exactly what happened. "I got sideswiped" raises the question as to what happens - were you interrupted in the middle of a presentation and you had your presentation ripped apart? Did somebody throw you a sharp elbow about something you didn't know? Were you slaughtered because somebody took exception to something you said? What? Note that none of the questions raised by your statement "I got sideswiped"have anything to do with the meeting being hijacked. In fact, "I got sideswiped" leads your listener away from "the meeting got hijacked
    – Vietnhi Phuvan
    Commented Jun 30, 2014 at 15:35
  • In what way are you intending to speak/write about this? If you need not be especially polite, and you want to register your feedback as a complaint, then hijack can be appropriate. If you need to be more polite/diplomatic, you can say that the meeting was diverted from its agenda or the agenda was modified considerably.
    – Drew
    Commented Jun 30, 2014 at 17:48
  • In my experience when a meeting is "hijacked" it is typically by an individual person who is trying to push their agenda. If, as you say, everyone (or most everyone) in the meeting has the same motive I would suggest a different term. Perhaps the meeting "went down the wrong track" or "was lead astray" or "was improperly named".
    – KnightHawk
    Commented Jun 30, 2014 at 18:15
  • Since you said "bamboozled" I want to mention "hoodwinked".
    – user39425
    Commented Jun 30, 2014 at 19:36
  • 1
    First one that pops in my mind is to derail the meeting. The term is a little loose, but it can be used to imply the meeting topic has been deflected to something else, if not stopped entirely from being useful.
    – 4444
    Commented Jun 30, 2014 at 19:53

5 Answers 5


The phrase bait and switch is often used to describe a process in which an attractive product is offered to induce buyers, and once they engage with the salesperson, they are diverted to a different, more expensive product, usually being told that the original is not available or otherwise undesirable.

The term is also applied to politics and other dealings in which an innocuous proposal is deceptively introduced, only to be substantially changed (as was the original intention) to something much more controversial.


You could say that another meeting attendant co-opted your meeting:

We were supposed to talk about the new project's budget, but then Bob co-opted the meeting to rant about support issues with our main vendor.

The second defintion is:

to use or take control of (something) for your own purposes

Source: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/co-opt

Another phrase you could use, which I've heard more than a few times, is going off the rails, as in:

Our meeting was going well until Bob sent it off the rails by spending the next hour complaing about support issues.

You could also use the word dominated, as in:

Steve tried to run a meeting about the budget, but Bob dominated the meeting by constantly discussing support issues.

  • I think "co-opt" is the best work suggested so far when speaking with supervisors. "Bait and switch" and the others have connotations that sound like you're complaining. Co-opt is more neutral. Commented Dec 16, 2015 at 14:23

There is an American expression "Going down a rat hole" which details what you are trying to say.

Many years ago I sat in on a meeting in the US where they solved this issue with a plastic rat. They would throw the rat at the person who was causing the meeting to go off at a tangent.

But this was more acceptable to their business culture. I'd be surprised if it worked elsewhere.


If you don't like the word hijacked itself, there is 'going off at a tangent'.

Although, in common usage, that doesn't necessarily mean a deliberate change of agenda. It is often used to indicate that the meeting wasn't chaired effectively. It has already been mentioned in another answer.


You might say the meting was co-opted, from the verb co-opt, “To commandeer, appropriate or take over”, or that there was a hidden agenda.

If the falsely-advertised meeting was aimed at you specifically, you could say you were shanghaied (commandeered; appropriated; hijacked) or press-ganged or kidnapped.

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