Top 5 Meeting Challenges: How You Can Solve Them

Do you find your workplace meetings going off track or not getting enough attendees to participate? Learn the strategies that can help you tackle common meeting issues.

Whether it’s brainstorming ideas, coming up with solutions to problems or learning valuable skills, meetings are essential to accomplishing business goals.

If you lead or help support team meetings, you’ve probably experienced situations and dynamics that derailed meetings and discouraged participation.

A recent Staples poll revealed the following top challenges that meeting attendees and hosts face. Read on to find out how some of your peers are tackling these issues and how you can make meetings more successful.

Challenge #1: Attendees Don’t Participate

More than half of office workers say meetings are boring and not engaging, while 18 percent of hosts say colleagues don’t participate even when they have something to contribute.

Denise, a school secretary, says she uses door prizes — like gift cards and small desk games — as a motivation tactic for showing up and speaking up.

“Attendees get one chance in the prize drawing for coming to the meeting, and they can earn extra chances by participating in discussions or helping solve problems brought up in meetings,” she says. “It does get people more involved in what’s going on.”

Another approach is to spur more engagement by having a few co-workers lead the way. Julee, a field administrator at a construction firm, approaches two colleagues before each meeting and asks if she can call on them to provide input during meetings.

“I give them time to prepare and ask they share best practices or insight with the rest of the team,” she explains. “This encourages other attendees to pay more attention to the topic and motivates them to get a conversation going.”

Challenge #2: Technology Goes Kaput

Broken projectors, fuzzy phone lines and lagging video can easily upend a meeting. Nearly a quarter of office workers polled said that tech glitches are a top frustration when it comes to keeping meetings on track.

To avoid malfunctioning technology, conduct a run-through before your meeting to ensure everything is working properly. Ask someone from your IT team to help you do this practice run. Test all the equipment you’ll be using to spot any bugs.

During the meeting, have an IT employee in the room to help with any problems. If they can’t attend, ask if someone from the IT department can be “on call” to come resolve any issues that arise.

Challenge #3: Late Arrivals Disrupt Meetings

Co-workers who come in after the start time are a top challenge for 25 percent of employees who host meetings. They are often a distraction as they try to find a seat and play catch-up on what was covered before they arrived.

Encourage attendees to show up on time by being clear in your pre-meeting communications that you have lot to cover and will begin promptly. Ask team members to notify you if they know they will be late — for example, if they are coming from another meeting. You can then take time after your meeting to catch them up on what they missed.

Challenge #4: Attendees Are Not Prepared

Team members who are unprepared or unaware of what the meeting is about are often not as engaged. Twenty percent of workers say they get frustrated when the host does not specify the reason for the meeting beforehand. On the other hand, 17 percent of hosts say colleagues not being prepared is a concern.

Help get everyone on the same page by sending attendees an agenda beforehand with all the necessary details.

Trish, an office admin at a security company, distributes an outline of what will be covered in the meeting.

“I make sure to include all relevant details and information,” she says. “I provide a list of not only what we’ll be talking about, but also the materials and documents attendees need to review beforehand or bring to the meeting.”

Send out your agenda a few days before so your team members have time to gather and read all relevant resources. Make it clear in your agenda that co-workers need to come prepared so everyone can jump right in.

Challenge #5: Meetings Stray Off Topic

Unrelated topics of discussion are a significant roadblock to productive and engaging meetings. Forty-six percent of employees get frustrated when a meeting agenda gets derailed due to people going off on tangents.

Rein in conversations that aren’t relevant by asking your team members a couple of days before the meeting if they have any concerns or input they want to bring up. Include these points in your agenda, and factor in additional time for other questions and open discussion. For the meeting, provide printed copies of the agenda. Stick to it as closely as possible and ask co-workers to reference it to help everyone stay on track.

Solving meeting challenges may look and feel different depending on whether you’re a host or an attendee. Be sure to gather feedback on your meeting strategy and execution. You’ll learn how well your efforts are working and how you can make meetings better for everyone involved.