Managing Distracted Meeting Attendees | Meeting Facilitation Training

How Do You Deal With Distracted Meeting Attendees?

The Problem:

It’s the ugly side of technology…cell phones, pagers, blackberries, blueberries, strawberries – Oh My!  How do we compete with all of these gadgets when we’re trying to lead a meeting?  What’s a meeting facilitator to do???

Try these techniques….

  • Bring it up as an issue early and get the group’s consensus on a ground rule
  • Use facilitation techniques that require participants to walk around or at least remain actively engaged (e.g. affinity diagramming, nominal group technique, etc.)
  • Make a point to begin calling on people by name early in the session (sets a tone where participants know they need to pay attention)
  • Get the group’s agreement on “No PDA multitasking” if you agree to provide a break every hour for everyone to respond to messages as needed
  • Get the group’s agreement on a penalty for any ringing phones/devices – e.g. violator must sing a tune J
  • Walk around during the session and stand near any violators
  • Pose a question to a violator who has disengaged
  • Leave a basket at the front door for everyone to drop their gadget into before they take their seat
  • Announce at the start of the meeting that you’ll ask anyone on their PDA to step out as needed

Note that there are a variety of techniques that can be used to address this very common problem, and they range in level of assertiveness.  The level of assertiveness you use should be determined after weighing several factors (including personalities, seriousness of violations, etc.)  The key is to NOT ignore the problem – bring it up with the team and let the group consensus be your guide!

Distracted meeting attendees aren’t the only problem in most meetings.  Team leaders and facilitators usually are faced with a range of difficult personalities including dominators (who may threaten to take over the meeting), ramblers (who take the group off topic), and slackers (who show up unprepared) as well.  Dana discusses these personalities in this video.