In our last blog post we started the conversation about managing problems in meetings. When a group of people come together to discuss situations, there will no doubt be opposing views, conflict and issues at times. As a manager you must be able to quickly mediate situations and diffuse what needs to be diffused as soon as possible.


“Meetings, like voyages through space, are strewn with potential problems. The Chair and members, their sights set on a successful conclusion, have to guide their way through uncharted territory with care without at the same time becoming too obsessed with the difficulties, as to do so will only slow down their progress and even perhaps distract them to such an extent that what they fear worst will happen – the meeting will self-destruct somewhere in space.”

Jack Gratus, Give and Take, BBC Books, London, 1990, p112.

Don’t forget

As chair, by limiting the number of tasks you ask your meeting to accomplish, you have a better chance of maintaining your focus through the meeting. The more you try to tackle, the more likely your meeting will get into a muddle.

Here’s an idea

If a member is called away during the meeting, ignore it. Drawing attention to disruptions when they occur only exacerbates them.


Here’s an idea

People who arrive late for meetings you have called can be a nuisance. Here are a few suggestions (some a little tough) to help you encourage these annoying people to change their ways…

  • Don’t wait for latecomers to arrive. Always start without them. In time, they’ll learn, and soon get into the habit of arriving on time.
  • Put items of interest to habitual latecomers at the top of the agenda.
  • Make the last person to arrive take the minutes. (Ouch!)
  • Pick and publicise an odd time for the meeting to begin. Instead of 3.30, try 3.28. It’s surprising how people try to be there to witness the 3.28 start.
  • Announce that a door prize will be awarded at precisely 3.29 – and the winner will need to be there to get the prize. An inexpensive novelty item is usually enough.
  • Stop talking and create dead silence while any latecomer finds a seat.
  • Make it a practice that any latecomer is required to ‘volunteer’ for any follow-up work from the meeting.


“Surroundings tend to affect the way we think and act and a poorly arranged and uncomfortable room is not likely to produce meeting results.”

B.Y. Auger in How to Run Better Business Meetings.


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