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4 Strategies for Managing Meeting Room Disruptions

employees in meeting room
Katie Cavanaugh
Published on

Joining late, not realizing you needed to have your camera on, forgetting to remove a silly background...

We all grew used to Zoom meeting snafus as hybrid and remote work grew in popularity in the wake of the pandemic.  

What a productive meeting looks like, where they're held, and what technology we use to run them will continue to evolve as we adopt new ways of working. But, if one thing is certain, it's that meetings aren't going anywhere. By extension, neither are meeting rooms and unfortunately, neither are meeting room disruptions.

Why In-Person Meetings Still Matter

Especially in the era of remote work and hybrid models, meeting rooms play a crucial role in bridging the gap between virtual and in-person collaboration.  According to a study by Harvard Business Review, 85% of respondents believe that in-person meetings are essential for building stronger, more meaningful relationships within teams.

Despite their importance, in-person meetings are all too easy to derail. What are the common meeting disruptions, and how can you eliminate them in your workplace?

As the debate over remote work rages on, there's one thing we know for sure: in-person connections matter.

Most Common Disruptions during In-Office Meetings

Meetings often have a bad reputation for being unproductive. A survey by found that 47% of employees consider meetings to be the number one time-waster at the office.

While meetings are essential to connect with colleagues and make business decisions, they also fall prey to disruptions far too often. Here are the most common variables that impact the efficacy of in-person meetings:  

Technical issues

We've all been there. You're about to give a big presentation but then realize:

  • You can't connect to the projector because an HDMI cord is missing
  • The WiFi is too spotty to support the video you want to show
  • A teammate video conferencing in is struggling to join the meeting

Pick your poison. Whether it's the AV equipment, the WiFi, video conferencing glitches or maybe no one in the room knows how to use the equipment provided—technical issues are meeting killers.

Meeting room disruptions can derail productive collaboration.

Scheduling conflicts

There are a wide variety of potential scheduling conflicts that can get in the way of effective meetings. Whether it's a double-booked room, a no-show meeting, or a last-minute change, delays often arise if team members aren't sure where they're supposed to be and when.

These schedule delays may seem minor, but those minutes aggregate quickly into hours that could have otherwise been spent making critical business decisions.

The wrong space for the job

The best offices have a variety of meeting room types. They come in various shapes and sizes, serving multiple purposes. Sometimes, you need a big space with whiteboards for a brainstorming session, a small room with soft seating for serious discussions or a formal conference room for executive meetings.

While the right meeting room can accelerate the effectiveness of a productive meeting, the wrong room can seriously hinder progress. For example, if an employee books a room that's too small or doesn't have enough chairs for the number of participants, attendees can feel cramped and struggle to stay focused on the task at hand.

Disruptive behavior

Though most often meeting disruptions come from trying to meet in the wrong space, at the wrong time or with the wrong equipment, sometimes, people are to blame.

Unexpected interruptions from colleagues entering the meeting room or knocking on the door can disrupt the discussion and derail the agenda. Other times, the actual disruption comes from within the room. Teammates going off-topic or engaging in unproductive debates can prolong meetings. This type of behavior usually finds a footing in meetings that lack an agenda or clear goal from the get-go.

Of course, in the era of short attention spans, phones, email, and side conversations make it difficult for individuals to stay focused during meetings.

When done right, meetings are an important catalyst for action.

4 Strategies for Overcoming Disruptions in Meeting Rooms

Problem: Technical difficulties

Solution: Give employees visibility into the type of room they're booking and a quick feedback loop if tech is off

Arm team members with visibility into the type of meeting room they are booking with a conference room scheduling tool that shows the resources and technology provided within. If they follow that model but still run into technical difficulties once the meeting is in session, make sure they have an easy way to give feedback to the IT or workplace teams.

Problem: Scheduling conflicts

Solution: Use a room booking tool that improves visibility into room availability, guests, and schedules

Thankfully, we've moved on from the days of running around the floor looking for an open room or squatting to save your favorite conference room for your meeting in a few hours. With meeting room displays outside each room, it's easy for employees to know which rooms are available at a glance. And if they're looking to schedule ahead, the best meeting room booking tools let employees pick the room they want at the time they need it while avoiding double-bookings and automatically correcting for no-shows.

While the occasional double-booked meeting room is a foregone conclusion, regularly running into scheduling conflicts can become a real problem.

Problem: The wrong space for the job

Solution: Use workplace analytics to determine what spaces your office really needs

Having the right mix of spaces for your team members is a careful balance of art and science. Of course, intentional design is important, and it's key to have the most common types of rooms, but there's no arguing with the numbers. Using a workplace management tool that provides analytics around your meeting room usage can help workplace teams understand which spaces are under or overutilized, what kind of equipment employees need for productive meetings and more.

Visibility into usage helps workplace teams continuously iterate on their workplace strategy and provide the best possible meeting rooms for their people.

Problem: Disruptive behavior

Solution: Revisit your workplace strategy and meeting culture

While the pandemic was a necessary catalyst for considering new ways of working, organizations should consistently revisit and iterate their workplace strategy.

Considering how easy it is to derail meetings, taking a hard look at your meeting room policy and implementing new expectations for agenda setting, room scheduling, and orderly conduct can go a long way if employees feel like meetings are starting to become a slog. Especially with the increased popularity of hybrid and flexible ways of working, people want to feel productive when they come into the office, so getting the most out of every in-person interaction should be a priority in your workplace strategy.

Dealing with disruptive meeting participants? Examine your company's culture around meetings and how to prevent these actions in the future.

Frictionless Meeting Room Management

If there's one thing the pandemic taught us, it's that we can be more intentional about how we're productive in the workplace.

In-person meetings are no exception. A key piece of every return-to-office mandate and hybrid work model should be guidelines to get the most out of in-person meetings AND the right tools and expectations to minimize disruptions along the way.  

Two people walking and talking in an office

featured report

The Science Behind In‑Person Productivity at the Office

Does your office collaboration need a reboot?

Find out if your workplace strategy is a hit or a miss.

office map
an employee headshotan employee headshotan employee headshotan employee headshot
Does your office collaboration need a reboot?

Find out if your workplace strategy is a hit or a miss.

office map
an employee headshotan employee headshotan employee headshotan employee headshot