Managing 6 Challenging Meeting Scenarios

ControlSooner or later, event planners and meeting facilitators encounter challenging meeting scenarios that impact participant engagement. The strategy selected to manage them will determine whether you can keep things under control and ensure a successful meeting outcome. If you can't, there is a risk that the meeting will be derailed.

Here are 6 of the most challenging meeting scenarios and tips for keeping them under control:

  1. Cross-talk. A number of participants speak at the same time or talking in the background when the rest of the group is involved in a discussion. Sometimes this happens when participants don't feel they are getting enough air time or if they don't perceive the topic at hand as relevant.
    • Avoid this by setting group norms at the beginning.
    • Try a talking stick (or talking feather). It works in many cultures for balanced participation during group interaction. The participant who has the stick or feather, has the floor.
    • If insufficient airtime is the issue, you may want to split into small groups for discussion so that more individuals can have input.
  2. Tough to get the group's attention.  Rowdy participants signal the need for course correction. It's a surefire sign that the content is not perceived as relevant.
    • Push the pause button.
    • Review the agenda with the group. Eliminate content that is not perceived as value added. Add content that is more relevant.
  3. Distracted Participants. Perhaps some participants are disrupting the meeting by constantly texting or popping in and out to deal with business issues.
    • The key is to work with participants and jointly develop a viable plan.
    • Check in with the group and determine how much time they need to check in and deal with issues related to clients or colleagues back at the office.

      Perhaps a longer break and a shorter lunch is needed or perhaps participants would prefer to shorten the morning break and have lunch earlier and longer so that they can get business related matters under control.
  4. Demanding Participants. Typically, this involves requests regarding meeting facilities, guest rooms and catering.
    • Prevention is the best cure. Develop a form that participants can complete if they have special requests.
    • Arrange for the banquet captain or a member of the front desk team to pop in at pre-arranged intervals to collect and address any concerns.
  5. Know-It-Alls. Know-it-all behavior is often attention speaking behaviour by participants who feel they are not being heard or respected.
    • The best strategy is to tap into that individual's expertise.
    • Creating the role of "coach" for breakout exercises can give individuals the attention they crave and provide an opportunity for them to share their input with the group in a constructive manner.
  6. Angry Participants. For any number of reasons, some participants may come across as angry or hostile during meetings. Perhaps they don't see the benefit of the meeting or perhaps something has happened prior to the meeting that has upset them.

    Regardless of the cause, if participants are angry and they are not given an opportunity to have their concerns addressed and resolved, they may resort to disrupting the meeting.
    • When it is apparent that some participants are angry, the best strategy is to pause and have attendees work in groups to identify concerns.
    • Then, switch lists between groups and provide an opportunity to brainstorm solutions.
    • It is important to work with the key players to distinguish between concerns that can realistically be addressed during the meetings and those that will require post meeting follow-up.

Lateness can significantly cut down on the amount of productive meeting time. Consult Minimizing Disruptions Due to Lateness.

Photo Credit: Faramarz Hashemi

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