Did you know that a lot of meetings are held back by completely avoidable ineffective meeting practices? Meeting obstacles often arise, creating common challenges in the workplace that need mediating. There are effective ways of approaching these common challenges so that you and your team members can continue with your meeting and achieving your organizational goals.
Meeting agendas are a good place to start, although there’s a lot more to be aware of. In order to equip you to handle any meeting obstacles that are thrown your way, Fellow has created your complete guide to approaching common meeting obstacles and how to overcome them.
10 meeting obstacles you should avoid
- No agenda
- Late attendees
- Lack of participation
- Too much participation
- Status updates take all the time
- Failure to include remote employees
- No clear takeaways
- Lack of time management
1 No agenda
Without a meeting agenda, the discussion doesn’t have any structure, which gives too much opportunity to get off-topic and to go over time. When the conversation isn’t organized, it’s unlikely that you and your team members are going to achieve the meeting goal. Without a meeting agenda, it’s also not likely that the meeting attendees are going to show up prepared, ready to participate, and contribute to the conversation.
Organize your meeting agenda in advance and collaborate on it with your team members so that collectively, you can choose which topics are most important to cover. Create meeting agenda items and allocate a specific amount of time to each one so that the meeting never runs overtime.
2 Late attendees
When meeting attendees show up late, it typically delays the start of the meeting, and more importantly, it sets the wrong precedent for the entire team. When the meeting leader or facilitator isn’t firm about punctuality, it sends a message to the meeting attendees about the importance of the meeting. It’s simply bad meeting etiquette to be late because it disrespects every other person’s time.
Set clear expectations with your team and lead by example. Ask your meeting attendees to arrive early so that they have some time to set up and prepare for the meeting. Emails, phone calls, and other conversations can wait until after the meeting. When you set the precedent that arriving late to a meeting is unacceptable, your team is much less likely to delay you and the rest of their team.
When the meeting gets off topic and especially when there is no meeting agenda, it’s very difficult to bring the conversation back to its focus and to achieve the meeting goal. The problem with digressions is that they tend to take a snowball effect. When one person gets off track, others tend to follow suit with other discussions they feel are important but that are completely unrelated to the meeting’s purpose.
Start by always using a meeting agenda. If digressions are still taking place even with a meeting agenda, use the parking lot technique. This is where when ideas arise, you simply write them down and bring them up at a more appropriate time whether it’s in a recurring common meeting, an informal discussion, or an email. Encourage your meeting attendees to write meeting notes with questions so that they can bring them up at an appropriate time.
Interruptions are an issue in a meeting because they also become digressions. It’s bad meeting etiquette to interrupt the person who is speaking because it doesn’t show team members respect when their ideas and perspectives are cut off, without the opportunity to finish and get their point across. This takes away from the flow of the meeting and pushes it off track.
You can assign specific speakers for specific sections of the meeting if you find that you and your team struggle with impromptu interruptions. You can also create specific meeting rules that you and your team can follow so that you don’t need to worry about interruptions. Raising a hand or using an action such as placing a token in front of your meeting spot when you’d like to speak is a respectful and amicable way to allow everyone the opportunity to contribute to the conversation.
5 Lack of participation
When there’s a lack of participation in your meetings, it means that there isn’t a great level of engagement and there’s no opportunity for collaboration either. It’s important that everyone on the team feels included and that everyone’s opinions are heard. Even when team members may be shy or timid speaking in front of a group, it doesn’t take away from the fact that they likely have some great ideas.
Consider rotating meeting roles so that everyone has a turn at facilitating and speaking in front of the group. Alternatively, you can use team-building activities or exercises to really boost collaboration. Round tables and brainstorming sessions are also great solutions. Lastly, you can ask your team members to all come prepared to the meeting with one or two comments or questions to share with the rest of the group.
6 Too much participation… from ONE person
If one person is doing all of the facilitating and all of the participating in the meeting, it means that no one else has the chance to speak and voice their perspectives. If this is a pattern that continues, it’s going to discourage people from wanting to participate and have a negative impact on engagement and team motivation.
Rotating meeting roles also works as a solution for too much participation from one person. Another solution is to assign one speaker to each meeting agenda item and to leave some time for questions and comments at the end of that meeting section so that everyone has an opportunity to speak and share their ideas.
Another way to mitigate too much participation is by using Fellow’s Meeting Guidelines feature set to help you ensure only the most essential attendees are in your meetings. If a meeting has more than 7 attendees, Fellow will send the meeting organizer a prompt to remove additional attendees, or mark them as optional.
7 Status updates take all the time
If your status updates take the entirety of the meeting, that means that there’s no time for talking about planning, strategy, issues, obstacles, successes, or innovative ideas- let alone time to ask questions at the end! Updates are important but they can also be sent via email and be delivered quickly, without unnecessary details.
Put a time limit on the status update section of your meeting so that the meeting doesn’t become centered on updates alone. Consider sending all of the status updates prior to the meeting so that everyone can take the time to brief themselves and you can simply go over them to then discuss what comes next.
8 Failure to include remote employees (in hybrid meetings)
When the majority of your team works in the office, it’s easy to forget about your remote employees or to compromise the quality of their meeting experience. When remote employees aren’t properly included in meetings due to technologies or time zones, it’s going to be frustrating and discouraging. When people feel left, they’re much less likely to participate and add value to the conversation.
Preparation is everything when it comes to making sure that your remote employees feel included and in the loop. It’s really important that ahead of time, you ensure you have the appropriate technologies set up in order to support your remote employees’ participation in the meeting. Additionally, it’s important to choose a time that is appropriate for your remote employees so make sure that your calendar includes their time zone.
9 No clear takeaways
Every meeting should have a purpose or a meeting goal, which also means that everyone should leave the meeting with clear takeaways. When there are no clear takeaways, meeting participants may wonder about what the purpose of the meeting was in the first place and the meeting might feel like a waste of time. It’s really important that everyone leaves with a sense of accomplishment which further motivates them to achieve success.
Make sure that you state the purpose or goal of the meeting before it begins so that as the meeting unfolds, you and your team are working towards that takeaway. Another great way to be sure there are clear takeaways is to create action items and issue items with due dates, that are assigned to specific team members so that you can hold one another accountable.
Use a meeting management tool like Fellow to have one source of truth for every meeting, boost transparency and accountability, and have clear meeting takeaways after every meeting.
10 Lack of time management (loooong meetings)
If your meetings constantly drag on past their end time, there’s an issue that needs to be resolved. Time management is important to your personal productivity but it’s also important in meetings so that the time of each participant is respected. Not only are you not respecting the time of others when meetings go over time, but it means that there’s at least one part of the meeting that is dragging on and needs to be condensed and more concisely delivered.
Assign a specific amount of time to each item on your meeting agenda so that you don’t go overtime. Whatever you don’t achieve during that portion of the meeting can be revisited another time, depending on the amount of attention and action that it requires. It’s also going to help if you come prepared with comments and questions that you would like to contribute under each agenda item.
Preparation and organization are everything when it comes to avoiding meeting obstacles. These meeting obstacles or ineffective meeting practices make you work harder to achieve less. Time is precious so be sure to organize yourself in advance with a meeting agenda so that you can then think about the best way to deliver important information, updates, and insights to your team members. Don’t forget to ask your team for some feedback on how they feel the meeting went. Often, our colleagues’ advice hits the nail on the head and is extremely helpful.