It’s Thursday morning. You’re sitting in the conference room, pen and notebook on the table, coffee in hand. The meeting technically started 10 minutes ago, and only half the anticipated attendees are there. Sound familiar? If so, you’re not alone.
Office life keeps getting busier, and your colleagues have more than ever on their to-do lists. That means fewer might be stepping away from the desk to show up at your meetings. If your meetings aren’t making the cut on their calendar, it’s time to figure out why.
Big project deadlines, major phone calls with clients, or double-booked time slots happen. Not all the time, though. Low attendance on the regular could mean people are simply blowing off your meetings.
Here are seven common reasons why they could be playing hooky – and what you can do about it.
The Point Isn’t Clear
Have you ever been in the middle of a meeting and wondered why you’re there? Without an obvious reason, a meeting can feel like a waste of time. For an attendee, a meeting without direction can feel less productive than organizing paper clips.
Take away the guesswork of why they should attend. Sharing your plan can fill the conference table seats. Create a meeting agenda and send it out beforehand. Your teammates will feel prepared and more engaged if they know what to expect. It also gives them a chance to brainstorm on any ideas or input they might have.
“I Didn’t Know About It”
Some people may tell you they didn’t know the meeting was even on the books. The days of posting an announcement on the office bulletin board are over. You’ll need a more direct approach to ensure invitees block off time to be there.
Email a calendar invite with an RSVP requirement when you need to bring people together for a discussion. Accepting the invite automatically puts it on their schedule (plus, they’ll get a handy-dandy pop-up reminder minutes before the meeting). It also lets you know who’s ignoring the invite, giving you a chance to follow up in advance.
It’s Bad Timing
In an office, everyone is busy, and everyone’s calendars are different. It can be hard to find a time when all your important players are available. So, when that golden hour of free time appears, it can be tempting to snatch it up. Resist the temptation – it still might be not the best time block.
Instead, ask your colleagues when they’re most productive. Whether it’s early morning or mid-afternoon, don’t break their concentration by pulling them into a meeting. Scheduling around the lulls in their days can entice more people to join in.
Your Meeting Is on Repeat
Do you have a standard format you stick to for your meetings? Relying on a formula (minutes, old business, new business, done!) can make meeting planning easy. It can also make sitting through the hour or so extremely boring. You don’t have to plan a party, but you should shake things up every now and then.
When you can, plan your meeting in a new location. Gathering under the trees or in the conference room with the great view can boost attendance and spark inspiration. Bring in a presenter on a popular topic. Try a role-playing activity where participants tackle a common problem to find solutions.
Also, don’t forget the food! Put bagels and coffee, pizza, or afternoon snacks up for grabs, and your meeting attendance could soar. Bring the food out toward the end, though. You don’t want people to dine-and-dash before you’ve accomplished anything.
Conversations Go Down the Rabbit Hole
Regular meetings are a great time for everyone to share their thoughts and feedback. They can be productive if everyone stays on topic. When conversations drift away from the important matter at hand, though, valuable time slips away. Your teammates may opt to blow off the meeting rather than sit through it and get behind on work.
If you want to side-step this problem, consider assigning an agenda monitor. This person is responsible for keeping everyone focused and moving the schedule forward. They can also keep a list of new topics to be addressed in a future meeting. It’s an easy way to keep tabs on other points of interest that need attention while staying on track.
You Don’t Watch the Clock
This problem goes hand-in-hand with staying focused. Keep track of the time. Your attendees don’t have unlimited minutes – or hours – to devote to your meeting. If you’re constantly running behind or running over, they could see your meetings as roadblocks and skip them.
Be respectful of your teammates’ work needs, and start and stop the meeting when you say you will. Don’t wait for people who always show up late, and don’t pause to catch them up. They can ask questions after the meeting. Offer incentives to entice timely arrivals. Consider raffling off small giveaways only to the punctual people.
404 Errors Are Frequent
When it comes to office life, this past year and a half has been unique. With many employees working from home, meetings have gone online. Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and WebEx have replaced the conference room. This phenomenon has also created a convenient excuse for skipping meetings. Incorrect login links, faulty VPNs, and missing email invites are common reasons for not popping up on the computer screen.
Technology could still give you the infamous “error message,” but do your best to make meetings easy for remote participants. When you send out calendar invites, confirm who’s working off-site and who’s in the office.
Be sure you attach correct login links to messages for all the right attendees. Most importantly, before the meeting, give your webcam a test drive to make sure it isn’t on the fritz.
Meetings are a necessary part of office life. They play an important role in decision-making, client relations, and project management.
If fewer people are showing up to your scheduled meetings, take a hard look at what might be keeping them away. Once you see the problem, give these suggestions a try to fill up your (physical or virtual) conference room.